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The National refuses to advertise Doha Debates 14, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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The Abu Dhabi based newspaper The National has refused to advertise a recent episode of the Qatar based Doha Debates. The motion debated in the show was ‘Is Dubai a bad idea?’ The key irony here is, of course, that the audience voted strongly (62%) that Dubai was not a bad idea, showing considerable regional support. Yet, in the wake of Dubai’s humiliation of having their towering, crowning glory the Burj Dubai forcibly renamed the Burj Khalifah, they presumably did not want to have the appearance of gloating or further angering intra-Emirate feelings.

Haiti earthquake because of pact with devil 14, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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Pat Robertson, the repugnant, hateful and seemingly mentally challenged US televangelist has sagely concluded that the reason that Haiti has been afflicted by the earthquake which has killed tens of thousands of Haitians is because several hundred years ago Haiti entered a pact with the devil. He is – alas – not speaking figuratively. Robertson is proof, were it ever needed, that ‘Christian’ extremists can be as equally offensive, stupid and…well…extreme as Muslim ones.

UAE torture Sheikh acquitted 14, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, The Emirates.
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I haven’t commented on the recent  judicial decision to acquit Shiekh Issa bin Zayad Al Nayhan of all torture charges in the UAE, mostly because it is practically too depressing for words. I’ll just jot down a few thoughts.

  • Five of the seven men present when the man was being tortured were sentenced, including an Indian, a Syrian and a Palestinian.
  • That is to say that the man who ran over him with a car, stuffed a cattle prod up his anus, stuffed sand in his mouth, set his genitals alight, hit him with a stick with a nail in the end, poured salt – quite literally – over his wounds has not been sentenced at all.
  • Sheikh Issa was found not guilty because he was ‘drugged’ at the time and an Indian cook at his house has been sentenced to three years in jail for aiding in this dastardly plot
  • To my knowledge, no medical evidence has been shown of drugs in Issa’s system
  • This time last year the US signed a sharing nuclear technology deal with the Emirates
  • Sheikh Issa is the brother of the ruler of Abu Dhabi who is also the President of the United Arab Emirates…you know…the Khalifah as in Burj Khalifah
  • The Afghan man who was tortured was given a large out of court settlement by the family of Shiekh Issa. He – amazingly – agrees with Sheikh Issa that the torture was, in fact, not Issa’s fault
  • The defense council (of the two men ‘guilty’ of drugging Issa) offered “two hours of videos of Shiekh Issa torturing other men” but this was not accepted into evidence.

The verdict is a farce, and shows why the world should have no confidence in the [United Arab Emirates’] justice system. This was a show trial, held completely in secret, with one objective: to relieve international pressure on the ruling family so that the pending military treaty with the U.S. would go forward. The fact is, and the evidence is clear, Sheikh Issa tortured numerous people and he ordered the torture to be videotaped. The sheikh’s abhorrent behavior also was not isolated. I offered the U.A.E. authorities additional videotape indicating that at least 20 other people were tortured by the sheikh. […] The Obama administration, like the Bush administration, continues to coddle the U.A.E. and look past serious human rights and security concerns there.

Tony Buzbee – Defense lawyer

Qatari PM meets Hilary Clinton 14, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Qatar.
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Here’s a link to the recent press conference between Qatar’s Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani and the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton.

It is an utterly unremarkable press conferences to be perfectly honest. It is full of the expected statements, questions and answers. Yet I write just to note that a senior Qatari politician has met with a senior US politician. It has been suggested to me by several people in Qatar that Qatar-US relations were under real strain and Qatar was consequently missed out by high level visits in recent years. So, perhaps a rapprochement it is…

Islam4UK and Quilliam director on Newsnight 14, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Islam, UK.
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Newsnight on BBC2 had an excellent segment interviewing Anjem Choudary from Islam4UK and Maajid Nawaz from the Quilliam Foundation, the counter extremist organisation.

The introductory film showed the evolution of various extreme Islamic groups in the UK along with, for example, interviews with radicals praising the 9/11 attacks. There was a readily identifiable pattern of a group getting more publicity, their pronouncements becoming more and more extreme until they brazenly advocate violence until they were proscribed as a group by the government. These people then set up another group/party and the cycle began again. Islam4UK is but the latest organisation in this line and has just been banned by the government. Numerous members (at least 20) of these groups have been convicted on terrorist offences.

Islam4UK came to prominence recently when they stated that they would conduct a march through Wootton Bassett, the small town in Wiltshire that (all too) regularly hosts parades for members of the British military that lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. Though some reports differ, many suggest that Islam4UK were going to carry empty coffins (or something like them) representing the large numbers of Muslims killed directly or indirectly by British forces. The march has since been cancelled. Yet Islam4UK’s main goal – that of accruing more publicity – has clearly been attained.

The video of the exchange can be seen in BBC Iplayer though, as always, only for a month.

Choudary begins by asserting that the fact that his organisation has just been banned is a good thing for Muslims. It shows, he states, the hypocrisy of the British Government, proclaiming freedom of speech, democratic values etc yet banning Muslim organisations.

Enter Majid Nawaz from Quilliam. He is superb. Firstly, he asks whether ‘one hair on your [sic] head’ has been touched by the British authorities. Choudary, obviously enough, obfuscates at this point. Nawaz continues to point out that Choudary has never been to prison or been arrested and that he even takes thousands of pounds for the British government and tax payer each year on the dole (benefit). Moreover, Nawaz suggests that the fact that he is on the BBC’s flagship news programme discussing his party is a testament to the strength of the values that he suggested were not present. It is when members of his organisation(s) and their ilk begin to call for martyrdom operations and the like that they are then shut down. Until this point, Choudary and those like him can, have and will continue to castigate the government and maintain that attacks such 7/7 are legitimate and that British civilians deserve to be killed.

Nawaz’s second question that he puts to Choudary is equally devastating. He asks that given Choudary calls for and predicts that Islam will one say ‘take over’ the UK under some kind of Caliphate, whether Choudary would have him [Nawaz] killed as an apostate. Choudary continually refuses to answer the question and looks ridiculous in the process. He confirms that Nawaz is indeed an apostate and that he would be thus judged by an Islamic judge and “you know the punishment” which is to say that, yes, he would have Nawaz executed.

My automatic reaction to people like Choudary and those carrying placards, for example, demanding death for the Danish cartoonist is to boot them out of the country. They clearly don’t like being here so escort them to Heathrow and wave goodbye. Yet this, I do realise, is hardly an answer. Interviews like this Newsnight one are, I think, excellent and are perhaps a significant part of the answer. When Choudary et al are exposed in a format like this their vile opinions are there for all to see. I firmly believe that from this interview Choudary will not receive any more support, if not the exact opposite. Moreover, I wonder whether it is safer, in the grander scheme of things, to keep people like Choudary in this country. If he were in, say, Pakistan, he would melt away and – I’ve no doubts – become rather more active in the ‘doing’ as opposed to the ‘protelyzing’ side of things. So, following on from ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ let’s keep the Choudarys of this world here, let’s expose their ideas to more people and, most importantly, let’s make sure the their every movement, conversation, telephone call and computer keystroke is wholly and utterly monitored by the good people in Thames House.