October 2008


On Al-Qaeda Web Sites, Joy Over U.S. Crisis, Support for McCain

By Joby Warrick and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Al-Qaeda is watching the U.S. stock market’s downward slide with something akin to jubilation, with its leaders hailing the financial crisis as a vindication of its strategy of crippling America’s economy through endless, costly foreign wars against Islamist insurgents.

And at least some of its supporters think Sen. John McCain is the presidential candidate best suited to continue that trend.

“Al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election,” said a commentary posted Monday on the extremist Web site al-Hesbah, which is closely linked to the terrorist group. It said the Arizona Republican would continue the “failing march of his predecessor,” President Bush.

The Web commentary was one of several posted by Taliban or al-Qaeda-allied groups in recent days that trumpeted the global financial crisis and predicted further decline for the United States and other Western powers. In language that was by turns mocking and ominous, the newest posting credited al-Qaeda with having lured Washington into a trap that had “exhausted its resources and bankrupted its economy.” It further suggested that a terrorist strike might swing the election to McCain and guarantee an expansion of U.S. military commitments in the Islamic world. (more…)

Sour note for American Muslims in election campaign

By Michael Conlon, Religion Writer, Reuters, October 21, 2008

CHICAGO (Reuters) – These are uneasy times for America’s Muslims, caught in a backwash from a presidential election campaign where the false notion that Barack Obama is Muslim has been seized on by some who link Islam with terrorism.

The Democratic White House candidate, who would be the first black U.S. president and whose middle name is Hussein, is a Christian. Son of a Kenyan father and white American mother, he spent part of his childhood in largely Muslim Indonesia.

The idea Obama is Muslim has circulated on the Internet for months, presented by some as a fact to reinforce the position that Obama is not a suitable candidate for the White House.

Not since the election of John Kennedy as the first Catholic U.S. president in 1960 has the faith of a White House hopeful generated so much distortion, said about 100 “concerned scholars” and others who have signed an October 7 proclamation aimed at countering Islamophobia they say is on the rise. (more…)

Drive to sell halal car insurance

By Jeremy Grant, The Financial Times, October 19 2008

In the past few months, residents in some parts of London, Leeds, Birmingham and Cardiff in the UK will have noticed a glossy leaflet dropping through the letter box. It looks like any other promotional literature, except for the slogan on the front: “Halal car insurance that’s right for your faith.”

Appeals to a consumer’s religious beliefs are unusual in a sales pitch in the UK and probably unheard of in its car insurance industry. But Principle Insurance Holdings believes the time has come for car insurance aimed at Britain’s 2m Muslims.

Bradley Brandon-Cross, a former GE Capital executive – and non-Muslim – who was recruited to Principle as chief executive, says Islamic finance is growing globally. The UK government has encouraged its use in Britain and many Muslims living in poorer regions of the country have for too long had fewer insurance choices than consumers in better-off areas.

“For a long time, Muslims have not been able to buy insurance products compliant with their beliefs so they have had to make do with products that are not empathetic with those beliefs,” he says. (more…)

On Meet the Press Sunday, retired General Colin Powell endorsed Senator Obama for President. In so doing he made an eloquent plea defending Senator Obama from the Islamophobia. It was not just that Obama has been falsely called a Muslim, but the injustice done to American Muslims who have proudly served their country. Here is what Powell said:

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America. (more…)

In a previous post, I commented on a 1925 National Geographic Magazine article by Major F. A. C. Forbes-Leith. In his journey from London to Quetta, the major passed through Iraq and met some of the famous silver makers from Amara.

Daniel Martin Varisco


Whitelaw Reid as a young correspondent

[In 1898 the United States was fresh from its imperialist expansion in the Spanish American War. Ironically, the situation faced by the United States today in Iraq has a parallel with the war in Cuba, as can be readily seen from this essay by the well-known journalist and Republican politician Whitelaw Reid. The irony continues in the example given by Reid of Egypt’s colonial occupation of Egypt. Although written over a century ago in one of America’s most popular periodicals, the sentiments are relevant to the ongoing occupation of Iraq. Whether or not history repeats itself, some historical observations are well worth repeating. Webshaykh]

by Whitelaw Reid

Men are everywhere asking what should be our course about the territory conquered in this war. Some inquire merely if it is good policy for the United States to abandon its continental limitations, and extend its rule over semi-tropical countries with mixed populations. Others ask if it would not be the wisest policy to give them away after conquering them, or abandon them. They say it would be ruinous to admit them as States to equal rights with ourselves, and contrary to the Constitution to hold them permanently as Territories. It would be bad policy, they argue, to lower the standard of our population by taking in hordes of West Indians and Asiatics; bad policy to run any chance of allowing these people to become some day joint arbiters with ourselves of the national destinies; bad policy to abandon the principles of Washington’s Farewell Address, to which we have adhered for a century, and involve ourselves in the Eastern Question, or in the entanglements of European politics. (more…)


Drawing of a Yemeni primula plant by Hugo Haig-Thomas

Hugo Haig-Thomas–A Biography of a Special Artist
Painter and Diplomat of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. of Great Britain

By John Gilbert Bodenstein, President of The European Art Foundation

It is a pleasure to read the biography of Hugo Haig-Thomas, a special artist of our time. Some artists combine their creative activity with a normal career. In Germany Johann Wolfgang Goethe, for example, produced some of his literary works whilst holding an appointment which occupied him during the day. In France the German writer Rainer Maria Rilke was secretary to the sculptor Auguste Rodin. And the famous European author Ernst Juenger was an officer in both World Wars.

Haig-Thomas likewise was for a number of years a member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service, but throughout his service he continued to paint and draw. (more…)

Yemeni farmers threaten to swap grapes for qat
Saddam Al-Ashmori, The Yemen Times, October 11, 2008

SANA’A, Oct 11 – Yemeni raisin producers have threatened to replace grapes with qat in their plantations after the loss they sustained this year as a result of not being able to sell all their produce.

Nasser Al-Khawlani, owner of a vineyard, said that the reason behind the low demand for local raisins this year was the presence of other cheap and attractive raisins in the markets, smuggled into Yemen from China.

He further said that, if the government didn’t take steps to prevent the smuggling of Chinese raisins into the country, farmers would replace grapes with qat in their lands. (more…)

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