The New York Times
November 23, 2001
FORCE OF ISLAM
Democracy’s Uneasy Steps in Islamic World
By DOUGLAS JEHL
In a region coping with Islamist movements, tiny Bahrain has made a strategic shift: from ruthlessness to openness. “We never dreamed it could happen so fast,” said Muhammad al- Jamri, a recently freed political prisoner, his easy manner reflecting the new atmosphere of good will. Under a new emir, the ruling Sunni Muslim family has freed Mr. Jamri and hundreds of others who were jailed in the quashing of a Shiite Muslim uprising several years ago.
Bahrain’s experiment in new freedoms is echoed to some degree in Kuwait and just a few other Arab lands. But with most Muslim countries ruled by kings, emirs and religious leaders, the situation poses a fundamental question: Is democracy compatible with Islam?
In Kuwait — a nation that is further along than Bahrain democratically — many people say that because of Islamic fundamentalism, democratic dreams should be guarded to preserve liberty. “The democracy has brought Islamists into the Parliament,” said Ahmad E. Bishara, a liberal who leads Kuwait’s National Democratic Union. “You end up with a Parliament that legislates against public freedom.”
As in Kuwait and Bahrain, the first ripples of openness have begun to reach other Arab shores. Qatar has promised to establish an elected parliament within two years; Saudi Arabia, a firm opponent of elections, has expanded the authority of an advisory council to the king. But throughout most of the Muslim world, the tension between Islam and modernity remains profound. Indeed, some observers have suggested since Sept. 11 that it is the absence of a Reformation in the history of Islam that helps explain why universities in the Arab world that were once the most advanced centers of learning have often turned inward and backward. It appears clear that some of the resonance of Osama bin Laden’s appeal to the Arab masses lies in the very fact that those masses have little alternative means of political expression. In the Arab world, true democracy is scarcer than in any other part of the globe. The Persian Gulf is ruled by kings, emirs, sheiks and sultans.
Elsewhere, leaders may be called president, like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, but even they are strongmen who run for office unopposed. Islam offers a code for many aspects of life that is often enforced in a legal system, and efforts to marry it with democracy face many tests. One is how far rulers like Bahrain’s emir, Sheik Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, so accustomed to obedience, might prove willing to share power, and similarly, how far Islamists like the freed Mr. Jamri might challenge them by exploiting the shared power to impose their own will. Just this year, Bahrain has welcomed home thousands from exile, scrapped emergency laws and promised to revive Parliament, shuttered since 1975, with elections open to all Bahrainis, men and women alike.
“These leaders want democracy, but they want to take it to certain limits and then stop,” said Ahmad M. al-Baghdadi, a professor of political science at Kuwait University. “But the problem with democracy is not just that the people want one and two, but three and four, and five and six, and so on.
And they begin to ask: `Why are you the ruler, not me? Why should it be your son, not mine?’ “
The Kuwaiti Parliament — first established in 1961 and still the only fully elected Parliament in the gulf region (Iran’s is partly appointed) — is a raucous, unruly body with the power to pass laws and to challenge the government, which the emir appoints. He has dissolved Parliament three times in its history, usually to silence liberal dissent, only to reinstate it, usually in response to Western pressure.
The Islamists have emerged as a powerful bloc, in a loose alliance with conservative Bedouin forces, and Parliament has been most visible as an obstacle to Western-style values. It has voted to require the separation of sexes at Kuwait University — though that has not yet been carried out, both
for financial reasons and because of government opposition — and it has blocked a 1999 decree by the emir, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmad al- Sabah, to open elections to women.
Moreover, the Kuwaiti Parliament and cabinet are embroiled in a dispute over whether to adopt Shariah as the legal system. Shariah is the religious legal code based on the rulings, called fatwas, of nonelected clerics, rather than the decisions of elected legislators. Walid Tabtabai, an Islamist member of Parliament, wants Kuwait to adopt the system, and said that if it was in effect, “there would be no terrorism.”
The Islamists’ effort has brought loud protests from people like Mr. Bishara, the liberal, who asked, “How can you be a democrat and follow a fatwa?”
The government has blocked the change, but Kuwaiti Islamists are continuing to press for an “adjustment” of existing codes to make them consistent with religious laws, including barring banks from charging interest. They say their campaign reflects the will of the people, and would represent a
triumph of democracy.
“People coming from the West want to see Kuwait cut out as another piece of Western society, and that’s not possible,” said Naser J. al- Sane, an Islamist member of Parliament. “You have to let people choose their way.”
The Koran advises leaders to follow the practice of consultation, called shura, before making important decisions, but it is silent about how the consultation should take place. Dr. Sane and other Islamists cite democracy as the highest example of shura, saying that because some of the Prophet Muhammad’s successors were elected by their peers, Islam places no obstacle to the direct election of leaders.
But interpretations of the relationship between Islam and democracy are as varied as interpretations of Islam itself.
Some rulers, like King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, have said flatly that democracy can have no place in Islam; for these rulers, an appointive council is sufficient for consultation. The Saudis adhere to strict Islamic law, and the ruling family and its backers say the Koranic injunction to “obey God, obey the prophet, and obey the ruler” justifies absolute rule.
Secularists argue that democracy can succeed only if Islam is separated entirely from political life. Most others advocate coexistence, but their visions become tangled over the central question of which should take precedence, the will of the people or religious teachings. “You can have a democratic organization, but it must take its cues from Islam,” said Khalid al-Essa, 61, a leader of Islam’s conservative Salafi movement, who works barefoot in his office in Kuwait so that the floor is
kept clean for prayer. Mr. Essa, an American-trained engineer, described Islam as “a boundary condition” for democracy. By contrast, Sheik Ahmad Fahd al- Sabah, Kuwait’s information minister and a member of the ruling family, said the people’s will must predominate.
“Sometimes, when you speak with the people, they say we have to respect God’s law,” he said. “We say you have to do it through democracy.”
The basic principle of one person one vote frightens many Arabs, and for a practical reason. At a time when democracy is new and its institutions untested, and with many Arab societies divided among tribes or sects, or between modernists and traditionalists, there are concerns that majorities might become tyrannical. Such worries appear to explain why, in Kuwait for instance, open calls for the direct election of leaders have been rare. It is understood that ruling families are not eager to cede power, and that those who call for their ouster would be punished. But members of minority
factions often welcome the monarchies as buffers that protect existing freedoms.
“If Kuwait were a true democracy,” Mr. Bishara said, “I wouldn’t be here talking to you.”
Of all the Arab ruling families that might have reason to be wary of democracy, the Khalifa of Bahrain stand out.
Lying just across a 15-mile causeway from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain is in many ways the antithesis of its neighbor. A magnet for both foreigners and Arabs because of its relaxed atmosphere and the ready availability of alcohol, it has served for years as the region’s main banking center and as the
headquarters of the United States Fifth Fleet. Beneath that facade is an imbalance unusual in the Arab world: Though power lies in the hands of the Khalifa family members and their fellow Sunnis, the large majority of the population of some 650,000 are Shiites, aggrieved because of a lack of wealth and privilege.
Until the recent changes, Bahrain’s solution to that imbalance was to silence dissent by exiling thousands of government critics, using emergency laws to arrest hundreds of others, and, in 1975, shutting down a Parliament that had existed for only one year. Under forces headed by a Briton, Ian
Henderson, and composed mostly of Pakistani and other foreign troops, Bahrain was transformed into a high-security state by the late 1980’s.
By the mid 1990’s, resentment had exploded in bombings, riots and other attacks that claimed 40 lives. When members of some leading Sunni families joined the Shiites by signing petitions urging the government to end its emergency laws and re- establish Parliament, they were fired or suspended from their government jobs. Foreign businesses began to move from Bahrain.
Not until the death in 1999 of the old emir, Sheik Issa al-Khalifa, and the ascension of his son, Sheik Hamad, now 51, did the picture change in earnest, culminating in the announcement of last February: amnesty for the exiles, including some former Marxists; freedom for the political prisoners; municipal elections in 2002; and parliamentary elections in 2003.
“The government tried its best to finish the uprising; it couldn’t,” said Mounira Fakhro, a Sunni who was allowed to resume her career as a university professor in February after a break of six years. “And the opposition tried its best to the make the government do its part,” she said. “That was when we reached this dead end. And thank God, the other emir died, and with the help of the West, I think, the new emir may be willing to give up what we want.”
Mr. Jamri, 42, who spent 10 years in jail, complained, though, that “everything that has been offered has been offered on the basis of generosity, not on the basis of doing what people want.” “This is a Bedouin way of treating others,” he added.
“If this situation continues, and there are only gifts, and not rights, this will turn to resentment,” he said. “And that might turn into calls for a return to the power of people.”
25 Nov, MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — The Bahrain Petroleum Co. on Sunday inaugurated a dlrs 29.5 million jet fuel treatment plant, part of the company’s multimillion dollar modernization plan, a company official said. Chief Executive Officer Johann Lubbe said that the new plant does not use lead for jet fuel treatment, unlike the old one which used the chemical form of lead in refining processes, posing environmental pollution risks. Lubbe said the new environmentally friendly project is part of a dlrs 950 million upgrade plan announced by the government in 1998 for the refinery, which was built in 1936, four years after the discovery of oil in Bahrain. The refinery, the only one on the island, is government-owned. Japanese firm JGC Corp. and several Bahraini contractors built the new plant.
22 November: Arrest of two soldiers in Bahrain connected to Osama bin Laden
Several fire-bombs were reported in Bahrain and these were targeted at automatic telling machines of a Westen bank. These are believed to be linked to supporters of Osama bin Laden.
Western sources said that among the men arrested in Saudi Arabia is a senior al Qaida commander who is thought to have advance knowledge of the September 11 attacks. The man, known as Abu Ahmed, was arrested after two al Qaida foot soldiers were detained in Bahrain and their phone calls traced.
Ahmed is believed to be the highest-ranking member of Osama bin Laden’s network detained and is thought to have known some of the 19 hijackers.
Sources told the Washington Post that he has provided information about the alleged involvement of a Yemeni intelligence officer in the October 2000 terrorist boat-attack on the destroyer USS Cole at a Yemeni port, which killed 17 American sailors.
He was reported to have details of planned attacks on December 31 1999 which were foiled when an al Qaida member with a truckload of explosives was arrested after crossing from Canada to America.
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Divers searched Wednesday for two U.S. Navy sailors and two Iraqis presumed dead after a decrepit, overloaded ship sank in the Gulf. The Samra, believed to have been smuggling 1,900 tons of Iraqi oil, sank early Sunday 80 miles southeast of Kuwait’s Al-Ahmadi port. Navy sailors had boarded the ship to check for smuggled oil. Divers on Tuesday recovered the body of a second Iraqi crew member. Ten of the 14 Iraqi crew members and six U.S. sailors were rescued Sunday. Lt. Melissa Schuermann, spokeswoman for the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain, said divers’ recovery efforts were continuing Wednesday. In Washington, a Pentagon official has identified the missing Americans as Petty Officer 1st Class Vincent Parker, 38, of Preston, Miss., and Petty Officer 3rd Class Benjamin Johnson, 21, of Rochester, N.Y. The official spoke on condition of anonymity. Schuermann said it’s too early in the inquiry to know whether the sailors realized the extent of the ship’s unseaworthiness before boarding. The Samra, resting 40 yards down on the sea floor, was leaking oil, but strong winds have hampered efforts to stem the flow. The boat was believed to have been registered in Panama. The Navy sailors were from the USS Peterson, a destroyer involved in efforts to enforce U.N. sanctions on Iraq by preventing the smuggling of Iraqi oil. Its home port is Norfolk, Va.
MANAMA, Nov 21 (Reuters) – U.S. forces in the Gulf have found the body of an Iraqi who was among two U.S. servicemen and three Iraqis missing since a tanker suspected of smuggling Iraqi oil sank this week, a U.S. spokesperson said on Wednesday. The Navy spokesperson at the U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain said search teams found the body on Tuesday and the remaining four missing seamen were now presumed dead. “We’re now focussing on recovery efforts. We are presuming that all the missing are now dead,” the spokesperson told Reuters. The overloaded Samra, which was flying the flag of the United Arab Emirates, sank on Sunday after being boarded by a U.S. team enforcing U.N. sanctions against Iraq. The ship was ordered to go to an area used by multinational forces as a holding bay for vessels carrying contraband when it went down off in international waters off Kuwait. The Navy attributed the vessel’s sinking to bad weather and its derelict condition. The United Arab Emirates said the 1,734-tonne Samra was illegally flying its flag and that it was actually registered in Panama. The two Americans who were on board the Samra when it sank were part of an eight-member boarding party from the USS Peterson. The three Iraqis were among the ship’s 14-member crew. The Pentagon said the Navy rescued 10 Iraqi crew members and recovered the body of another Iraqi. The incident was the latest in a series of accidents involving ships carrying Iraqi oil in the Gulf in recent months. Iraq, under international sanctions since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, is allowed to sell oil under close U.N. supervision.
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — U.S. Navy divers retrieved a body Tuesday from the wreckage of a sunken cargo ship in the northern Arabian Gulf, a Navy spokesman said. Two U.S. sailors — part of a team searching for smuggled Iraqi oil — and three Iraqi crew had been missing after the sinking. With the retrieval of the body Tuesday, all were presumed dead. The body was not immediately identified. The Samra, believed to be Panamanian flagged, sank in international waters some 70 nautical miles (80 miles) southeast of Kuwait’s Al-Ahmadi port at about 4:45 a.m. (0145 GMT) on Sunday. A team of U.S. sailors had boarded the ship shortly beforehand as it was believed to be smuggling Iraqi oil in violation of U.N. sanctions. Lt. Melissa Schuermann, spokeswoman for the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain, said Monday that Navy officials did not know if the sailors were aware of the vessel’s unseaworthiness before boarding it. This question would be addressed in later investigations. The Navy rescued six U.S. sailors and 10 Iraqi crew on Sunday and recovered the body of one Iraqi sailor. Two U.S. sailors and three Iraqi crew were presumed dead Tuesday as divers from the navy’s auxiliary ship, USNS Catawba, recovered a body from the wreckage. “We have switched the search and rescue operation to a search and retrieve effort after finding a body, the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet spokesman told The Associated Press. “The body has yet to be identified, but missing sailors and the Iraqi crew are now presumed dead,” the spokesman said on condition of anonymity. Meanwhile, strong winds hampered efforts Wednesday to stop the sunken cargo ship from leaking oil, a Bahraini marine official told the AP. “We have spotted oil patches, but it’s very difficult to determine how big they are, or conduct any operations to control the leaks. “We will have to wait until the weather calms down,” said Captain Abdul Munem al-Janahi of the Bahrain-based Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Center. The Samra was lying at the bottom of the sea at the depth of 40 meters (yards). Al-Janahi said earlier that the 40-year-old ship “should have been scrapped a long time ago.” The single deck general cargo ship was not designed to carry oil, he said. The U.S. Navy said the tanker was carrying an estimated 1,700 metric tons (1,900 tons) of Iraqi oil. It was boarded as part of efforts to stop smugglers of Iraqi oil. The U.S. sailors had boarded the tanker from the USS Peterson, a destroyer whose home port is Norfolk, Virginia. am/db
MANAMA, Nov 18 (Reuters) – The crew of a vessel suspected to be smuggling Iraqi fuel oil have jumped ship in the Gulf leaving the moving vessel without a crew, a regional environment watchdog said on Sunday. A spokesman of the Bahrain-based Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre (MEMAC) said the Aqeel was carrying around 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil when it was abandoned by its 10-strong crew. “The crew abandoned the ship which is now moving without command in the northern Gulf near the Iranian waters,” the MEMAC spokesman told Reuters. He did not give details about the vessel or the nationality of the crew. U.S. Navy ships have picked up the crew of the vessel, the MEMAC spokesman said but a U.S. Navy spokeswoman contacted by Reuters did not have an immediate comment on the report. The U.S. Navy patrols the Gulf to enforce U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq after Baghdad’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Two U.S. Navy servicemen and three Iraqis were missing and one Iraqi was found dead after a ship allegedly carrying smuggled Iraqi oil sank in the Gulf on Sunday. REUTERS
18 Nov: Al-Qa’eda suspect may be in Bahrain
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Authorities have found a package containing a lengthy letter from Sept. 11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah to his girlfriend, telling her he would not return from the United States, German prosecutors confirmed Saturday. Frauke Scheuten, spokeswoman for the federal prosecutors office, said a package containing the letter had been sent to Germany by Jarrah, suspected of flying the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. The package was later returned to the United States where authorities discovered it, she said. Besides the letter, which Scheuten described as a love letter bidding his girlfriend farewell, the package also contained papers about Jarrah’s flight training, she said. “I have done what I had to do,” the German weekly Der Spiegel quoted the letter as saying in a Saturday release of its Monday edition. “You should be very proud, because it is an honor and in the end you will see that everyone will be happy.” According to Der Spiegel, the four-page letter is dated Sept. 10 and authorities believe it was written hours before the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were carried out. Due to a mistake in the address, the package was returned to the United States and fell into the hands of the FBI last week, Der Spiegel said. “Hold on to what you have until we see each other again,” Der Spiegel said Jarrah wrote to his girlfriend. Jarrah, a 26-year-old Lebanese native, often visited his girlfriend, German girlfriend of Turkish descent, Ayse Sengun, in the western German city of Bochum where she was studying medicine. But he lived and studied in Hamburg along with two other suspected hijackers, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi. The three are thought to have been the organizers of the attacks and pilots of three of the four planes used to carry out the attacks. Meanwhile, Focus weekly reported Saturday in an early release of its Monday edition that German investigators believe Said Bahaji, suspected of organizing apartments, documents and money for the Hamburg cell, may be in Bahrain. An international arrest warrant has been issued for Bahaji, who left Germany eight days before the Sept. 11 attacks and flew to Pakistan. Focus said the German-Moroccan national is believed to have left Karachi three days later for Bahrain. German investigators could not immediately be reached for comment. In addition, Scheuten said that two men who were arrested in Pakistan while trying to cross illegally into Afghanistan have been returned to Germany and questioned as part of the investigation here into the attacks on New York and Washington. Identified only as Bekim A., a German citizen, and Ibrahim D., a Lebanese native who was seeking asylum in Germany, the two are believed to have been involved in Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.
Bahrain signs deal to set up Islamic money market
MANAMA, Nov 14 (Reuters) – Bahrain has signed a pact to establish an International Islamic Financial Market in the Gulf’s financial and banking hub to help meet the needs of Islamic banks and financial institutions. The Governor of the Bahrain Monetary Agency (BMA), Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Khalifa, signed the deal in Paris with Malaysia, Indonesia, Sudan and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the Agency said in a statement received on Wednesday. “The agreement aims at the setting up of an international Islamic Financial Market with its headquarters in Bahrain,” the BMA, the island state’s central bank, said. A council drawn from the four states and the Jeddah-based IDB as well as representatives of Islamic financial institutions would be formed to take the necessary steps to set up the money market, it said. In June, regulators and bankers from Bahrain, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Sudan and the 53-member IDB met in Bahrain to review technical issues linked to establishing the Islamic inter-bank market. Bahrain and Malaysia have since been discussing which of the two countries would host the IIFM, aimed at some 200 Islamic banks and financial houses serving 1.2 billion Muslims. It was unclear why Brunei did not join the agreement. Bankers say one of the major problems for Islamic banks was the lack of means to manage their day-to-day liquidity requirements. Islamic banks and financial houses do not pay or charge interest — the core of the Western banking system — as it is considered usury by many Muslims. Money is made instead by using a system of profit sharing from returns on approved investments. There are 18 Islamic banks and financial houses operating in Bahrain alongside 20 commercial banks and 47 offshore banking units with combined assets of more than $100 billion. Bahrain in June started to issue Islamic government bills, called Sukuk Al-Salaam, worth $25 million on a monthly basis. It had also offered five-year Islamic leasing bonds worth $100 million, the first offered by any central bank in the area. It also planned to establish a liquidity management centre to meet the needs of Islamic houses for short-term liquidity and to create investment opportunities.
The Independent 13 Nov 2001 Arab leader backs the ‘war of liberation’ War on terrorism: The Gulf By Katherine Butler in Bahrain 13 November 2001 The Emir of Bahrain became the first Arab leader to give his unequivocal backing to the Allied bombing of Afghanistan.
Calling the campaign a “war of liberation”, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa made it clear he would approve any request by the US to use Bahrain as a base from which to fly bombing raids.
In an unusually outspoken interview with Western journalists at his palace near Manama, Sheikh Hamad lavished praise on George Bush and Tony Blair. They were, he said, waging both a campaign against terrorism and a campaign to free a population oppressed by “lunatics who call themselves Muslims”.
“I am so happy that America, Britain and the world are going into Afghanistan liberating it from evil,” he said. “This can only be good for the families, the children and the women, for health and for education. Whoever is against such a thing is someone who has lost his mind. It is a gift of God that the developed world is going into Afghanistan to help. For this reason, we have supported it from day one.
“When the campaign is over people will applaud and thank the Allies for saving these poor people from evil. We all know the practice there is un-Islamic. The way they treat women is not Islamic.”
Despite signs of growing opposition to the Allies’ campaign on the island state which already hosts the US Navy’s fifth fleet, Sheikh Hamad said: “We are allies and in 50 years of cooperation with the US we have never rejected a request.”
The Emir’s remarks are in sharp contrast to the condemnation of the campaign voiced by Arab leaders such as President Bashar al Assad of Syria
A plan for sending Japanese defense forces possibly to Bahrain
NEW YORK, Nov. 13 (Kyodo) — Japan is in talks with the United States on a plan to send Japanese defense forces possibly to Bahrain, where the U.S. 5th Fleet’s central command is based, with the aim of supplying fuel to U.S. ships, Japanese and U.S. government sources said Tuesday. The Japanese government is working out a “basic plan” on dispatching the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) overseas to help U.S.-led military campaigns in Afghanistan in line with the antiterrorism law put into effect Nov. 2. Under the proposed plan under discussion, SDF ships would likely sail to the Persian Gulf and operate from Bahrain to aid U.S. ships in the Arabian Sea, the sources said. Such an operation would likely center on fueling U.S. vessels directly engaged in military operations, which is likely to generate criticism that it is tantamount to exercising the right to collective self-defense, which Japan has said it would not exercise. To fend off such criticism, the Japanese officials have come up with the idea of not supplying fuel to attack vessels such as aircraft carriers and destroyers and have left a decision to the prime minister, the sources said. Japan and the U.S. have so far reached a basic agreement to make Singapore a supply transport base for the U.S. military. Earlier, the Japanese officials had thought of sending the SDF to Diego Garcia, a British dependency in the middle of the Indian Ocean used by Britain and the U.S. as a naval and air base. But the type of fuel SDF supply vessels can carry is for ships rather than military aircraft, and the U.S. officials thus indicated it would be more efficient to fuel ships at sea.
11 November 2001: Bahraini journalist charged with incitement
By SUSAN SEVAREID Associated Press Writer MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain’s government is suing a Bahraini free-lance journalist for inciting divisions in the Gulf island nation, a Ministry of Information official said Sunday. The journalist, Hafedh ash-Shaikh Saleh, disputes the accusations. He said he appeared in court Saturday to pay 50 dinars (dlrs 135) bail and expects a trial to begin in a week to 10 days. If convicted, the ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said punishment would be up to the courts but that a jail sentence wasn’t likely. Saleh said he believes a Nov. 5 commentary he wrote for a Lebanese newspaper, The Daily Star, is the main reason behind the legal action. “I fully agree with the text (of the article),” he said. In it, he wrote that Crown Prince Sheik Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa’s recent visit to the United States “caused widespread consternation” in Bahrain and Gulf Arab states. He also questioned whether his country was moving toward democracy or toward U.S. servitude. The ministry official said the case against Saleh is based on several articles. “He always tries to raise those sensitive issues where we don’t have them, and he always tries to heat the atmosphere in Bahrain,” the official said. Bahrain is home to a half million people of Arab and Persian descent who follow separate branches of Islam.
Saleh regularly contributed to the Bahrain-based Akhbar Al Khaleej, temporarily has stopped accepting any of his articles. He said he will continue writing for newspapers outside Bahrain, including the Qatar-based Al-Sharq newspaper.
Gulf banks urge more data sharing on dirty money
DUBAI, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Senior bankers urged Gulf banks on Sunday to share information more freely among themselves and with regulators and law enforcers to fight money laundering in the oil-rich region in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Bankers told a conference on financial crime that more liberal information sharing under a code of conduct to prevent abuse of the data could help stop criminals exploiting a region with a reputation as an easy place to move money to and from. “What we have to do now is share information,” said Richard Stockdale, Lloyds TSB Group Plc manager for the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf. “Cooperation between law enforcers, regulators and banks is critical in solving this issue.” “If as an industry we want to make progress we cannot continue working in isolation,” said Andrew Duff, chief executive of the UAE arm of Standard Chartered Bank and head of the bank’s corporate banking in the Gulf. “If we want to get serious about money laundering we have to try to create a framework where people can talk to each other. If we don’t, these efforts risk being compromised.” Experts say the Gulf provides fertile ground for money laundering as it has a high expatriate population, laissez faire economic policies, sophisticated banks and free trade zones and lies at the juncture of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia including countries of the former Soviet Union. FALSE NAMES The region drew renewed attention last week when the United States accused Dubai-based banker Ahmed Ali Nur Jumale of being an associate of Osama bin Laden, Washington’s key suspect in the September attacks on the United States, and of using his al Barakaat group’s offices to transmit funds to terrorists. Jumale strongly denies the allegations. Experts say terrorist groups rely on weak information sharing among banks in the Gulf and elsewhere to make unfettered use of false names, offshore accounts and legal businesses that allow them to muddy the money trail. Gulf regulators have started to clamp down on the problem. The UAE this year formed an anti-corruption commission and introduced a new law against money laundering that establishes criminal liability for violating its terms. Bahrain and Oman are also introducing anti-money laundering legislation. But bankers told the conference that, at present, if they became suspicious about accounts or business propositions they could air their doubts only with central banks. Banks should correct that by copying telecoms and oil firms in sharing information on issues of common concern — in their case on industrial safety and phone fraud, the bankers said. “This is where we need to get to in banking,” said Duff, adding the move would require the curbing of normal competitive instincts and the will to promote best practice in the industry. “At the moment I can only talk to the regulator. I can’t call HSBC and say ‘hey I’ve got information about this guy’ and swap names,” said Duff. “We need a framweork. We have to remind ourselves that banks do not compete on money laundering.” VICTIMS ARE GULLIBLE “There needs to be a code of conduct. You couldn’t have people rushing out on the street defaming each other.” Bankers called for a specialist information sharing unit, a code of conduct managed by Gulf central banks and named contacts for data sharing within each financial instutition. Security experts said banks would continue to be faced with an array of fraud and money laundering schemes because criminals were endlessly inventive and their victims were gullible. “New schemes for fraud arrive at the speed of thought. New laws to address them arise at the speed of government,” said Alan Brill, senior managing director at U.S.-based security firm Kroll Associates and a former New York assistant commissioner of police for technology-related crime. “I’m amazed that I still see customers coming to the bank because they believe they’re shortly going to receive $50 million from Nigeria and they just need to open an account and organise an advance fee,” said Stuart Hammond, Standard Chartered head of investigations for the Middle East and India.
10 Nov: Islamic bankers defend their industry
By SUSAN SEVAREID Associated Press Writer MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Islamic bankers rejected Saturday allegations that their institutions had been used to move money for terrorists. Prince Mohamed Al Faysal Al Saud, chairman of the Switzerland-based Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami Trust, said that since the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States, there had been “a formal campaign to besmirch the reputation of institutions that have always been good citizens of any country they have been in.” The prince, a nephew of Saudi King Fahd, was speaking to the 2001 World Islamic Banking Conference, which opened Saturday in Manama. “We are asked to maintain high standards,” he said. “Let them (journalists) maintain high standards.” He accused journalists of quoting anonymous experts who misrepresented Islamic financial institutions. Giving an example later, he said that media reports had confused a Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami bank, Al Shamil, with the Sudanese Al Shamal bank. The Sudanese bank has acknowledged past ties with a company run by Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The bank has said the ties ended when the account closed in the mid-1990s. Islamic banks follow international banking standards, but their methods differ from conventional banks in areas that conflict with Islamic beliefs. Islamic banks, for example, cannot pay or charge interest and cannot charge late-payment penalties unless the fee is donated to charity. Some Islamic banks, particularly in Sudan, have come under scrutiny since Sept. 11 because of a lack of strong banking regulations in the Middle East. U.S. authorities have cracked down on numerous Arab businessmen, Islamic charitable organizations and informal money-transfer networks suspected of funding terror groups. “We must not paint Islamic institutions by one brush,” Bahrain’s Crown Prince, Sheik Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, told reporters at the conference. Sheik Salman, who has repeatedly expressed full support of U.S. efforts to fight terrorism, said recent events had only deepened his commitment to valuable Islamic financial institutions. “We want to see the Islam that we know, not that has been represented by an act — a horrible act — of a small group of people,” he said. Sheik Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, governor of the Bahrain Monetary Agency, said no accounts in Bahrain matched any names on the lists of terrorist groups and individuals that the United States has asked nations to investigate. Prince Mohamed, whose Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami Trust is the parent organization of several Islamic banks, said his group had found only one account matching the names on the U.S. lists. “We had one instance in our institution in Switzerland,” he said, declining to provide details. Bahrain, a tiny Gulf island nation of a half-million people, is a regional banking hub with more than 180 banks and financial institutions. Sheik Ahmed said it was premature to say if tougher banking regulations were needed until the subject had been fully debated. sjs-jbm
Bahrain central bank says no trace of suspect accounts
MANAMA, Nov 10 (Reuters) – The Bahrain central bank reiterated on Saturday that there was no trace of accounts of individuals or groups suspected of financial links to terrorism. “We haven’t found any account in Bahrain for any name on the lists and there is no need to freeze any account,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Khalifa, governor of the Bahrain Monetary Agency (BMA), the central bank, said. He gave no details. The U.S. Treasury, which asked central banks around the world to freeze any assets they find, on Wednesday added 62 more names to its list of people and groups whose U.S. assets are to be forzen, bringing the total to some 150. The BMA on October 3 said it had seen no trace of any suspected links to the 27 groups and people named at that time by the United States as allegedly connected to terrorism. Since that date over 100 names have been added to a U.S. list of terror suspects. There are more than 100 banks and financial institutions operating from Bahrain with combined assets of more than $100 billion. Sheikh Ahmed also said the Gulf Arab state was working with the international community on the development of regulations and rules for banks and financial institutions. “We believe that applying the international rules and regulations is very important for the growth. In terms of Bahrain, I think, we have developed standards that are in line with the international community.” Bahrain last month issued regulations and rules to banks to combat money laundering, joining the global war, following the September 11 deadly attacks on New York and Washington. The regulations apply to holders of banking licences, money changers, mutual funds registered in Bahrain and investment advisers licensed by the central bank.
10 November: Islamic bankers defend their industry
By SUSAN SEVAREID Associated Press Writer MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Islamic bankers on Saturday defended an industry under scrutiny since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States set off a global hunt for the money that finances terrorism. Prince Mohamed Al Faysal Al Saud, chairman of the Switzerland-based Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami Trust, said that since the attacks on the United States, there had been “a formal campaign to besmirch the reputation of institutions that have always been good citizens of any country they have been in.” The prince, a nephew of Saudi King Fahd, was speaking to the 2001 World Islamic Banking Conference, which opened Saturday in Manama. “We are asked to maintain high standards,” he said. “Let them (journalists) maintain high standards.” He accused journalists of quoting anonymous experts who misrepresented Islamic financial institutions. Giving an example later, he said that media reports had confused a Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami bank, Al Shamil, with the Sudanese Al Shamal bank. The Sudanese bank has acknowledged past ties with a company run by Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The bank has said the ties ended when the account closed in the mid-1990s. Islamic banks follow international banking standards, but their methods differ from conventional banks in areas that conflict with Islamic beliefs. Islamic banks, for example, cannot pay or charge interest and cannot charge late-payment penalties unless the fee is donated to charity. Some Islamic banks, particularly in Sudan, have come under scrutiny since Sept. 11 because of a lack of strong banking regulations in the Middle East. U.S. authorities have cracked down on numerous Arab businessmen, Islamic charitable organizations and informal money-transfer networks suspected of funding terror groups. “We must not paint Islamic institutions by one brush,” Bahrain’s Crown Prince, Sheik Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, told reporters at the conference. Sheik Salman, who has repeatedly expressed full support of U.S. efforts to fight terrorism, said recent events had only deepened his commitment to valuable Islamic financial institutions. “We want to see the Islam that we know, not that has been represented by an act — a horrible act — of a small group of people,” he said. Sheik Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, governor of the Bahrain Monetary Agency, said no accounts in Bahrain matched any names on the lists of terrorist groups and individuals that the United States has asked nations to investigate. Prince Mohamed, whose Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami Trust is the parent organization of several Islamic banks, said his group had found only one account matching the names on the U.S. lists. “We had one instance in our institution in Switzerland,” he said, declining to provide details. Bahrain, a tiny Gulf island nation of a half-million people, is a regional banking hub with more than 180 banks and financial institutions. Sheik Ahmed said it was premature to say if tougher banking regulations were needed until the subject had been fully debated.
6 November 2001
By SUSAN SEVAREID Associated Press Writer MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Islamic and political organizations in Bahrain, where the U.S. has a strong military presence, called Tuesday for an end to U.S. strikes on Afghanistan. The groups, in a statement obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press and published in local Arabic-language newspapers, condemned the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States. But they criticized the U.S. response as “unjust aggression” toward Afghan civilians being displaced and dying in bombing raids. “These savage operations by the great American arsenal will not end terrorism or guarantee security for America and its allies,” the groups said. “To the contrary, they will deepen sentiments of hatred … and feed the feelings of revenge against them for one generation after another.” The Bahraini government has pledged its full support to the United States. Bahrain is home base to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Many Arab governments allied with the United States, including Bahrain, are finding themselves in increasingly uncomfortable positions as the U.S. air bombardment heads into a second month. Growing reports of civilian casualties have strengthened the voices of Muslims demanding an end to the war. Among the seven political and Islamic groups to sign the anti-war statement were the Islah Society, the Islamic Enlightenment Society and the Islamic Society — all Islamic charitable and educational organizations. The Islah Society has been at the forefront of a Bahraini campaign to gather donations for Afghan refugees. Jalal Fairooz, spokesman for the National Islamic Reconciliation Society, a new political association in Bahrain, said the statement was meant in part to allow Bahrainis uneasy with the strikes to air their views without resorting to street demonstrations.
5 November 2001 By ADNAN MALIK Associated Press Writer MUHARRAQ, Bahrain (AP) — A suspicious white powder that prompted Gulf Air to evacuate more than 100 people Monday from its corporate offices turned out to be harmless, civil defense and airline officials said. Col. James Windsor, second in command at Bahraini civil defense, said tests on the powder, which arrived in a letter sent to Gulf Air, “showed it was nothing to worry about.” “It isn’t a biohazard or a chemical hazard,” Windsor said. A Gulf Air spokeswoman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the letter arrived from outside the country through Gulf Air’s internal mail system. Neither she nor Windsor would say to whom the envelope was addressed or specify from where it was mailed. The envelope was opened by a Gulf Air employee, the spokeswoman said. Authorities took the necessary precautions for the employee’s health, she said without elaborating. Windsor said Gulf Air carried out an orderly evacuation of more than 100 employees. The Gulf Air spokeswoman said they were sent home for the day. Last month, Bahraini authorities investigated two anthrax scares, at the American Express offices in Manama and at the National Bank of Bahrain, the Gulf island’s leading commercial bank. The powder in both cases tested negative for harmful substances. Bahrain-based Gulf Air, which is owned by the governments of Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the emirate of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, flies to about 50 destinations in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and north Africa.
Bahrain set to join treaty upholding women’s rights
By KHALID ALKHARRAZ (GDN , 4 Nov 2001)
BAHRAIN will soon join an international agreement which bans all forms of discrimination against women, announced a top official yesterday.
Labour and Social Affairs Minister Abdulnabi Al Sho’ala said the signing of the agreement will add another milestone to the achievements made so far in protecting and promoting human rights in the country.
“The State backs the role of women and protects their rights. The concerned authorities are now making the final procedures to sign this agreement,” he said.
Mr Al Sho’ala was speaking at the opening ceremony of a three-day workshop entitled Role of the Civil Society in Promoting Human Rights Culture.
The event, at Al Oruba Club in Juffair, is being organised by the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), in co-operation with Amnesty International.
It is being held under the patronage of Mr Al Sho’ala and is being attended by society members and members of other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
Mr Al Sho’ala said Bahrain has taken firm steps to ensure that human rights are respected and adhered to in the country.
“It is also important for people to realise what their rights, duties and obligations are and this is what this gathering aims to achieve,” he said.
“No society can aspire to enjoy its legitimate rights without first fulfilling all its duties and obligations. You all clearly understand that this balance is one of the fundamental basics in achieving human rights.”
People in Bahrain, continued the minister, have won a lot of rights which include economic and social rights as well as their right to education, medical services and the right to work.
“People also have the freedom of belief and religion. These rights are also enjoyed by children as well as the disabled and the elderly,” he remarked.
Mr Al Sho’ala said the time was ripe for people to get involved in the drafting of laws and decision making, as part of greater political rights they now enjoy.
“They also include the freedom of expression and the equality between men and women,” added the minister.
Bahraini women, in particular, have been granted their rights, said Mr Al Sho’ala.
“They include equal rights to men in election and voting. This right will be further emphasised once they are endorsed by the constitution as drafted in the National Action Charter,” he said.
Mr Al Sho’ala said women also play a commendable role in supporting civil societies and promoting their activities.
He said Bahrain has also ratified and signed a number of international conventions which protect human rights and ban punishment, child labour, annihilation, racial discrimination, forced labour and torture.
“Signing such conventions stems from our deep belief in the values and principles they promote.”
BHRS general secretary Dr Sabika Al Najjar also spoke at the event.
“In the near past, speaking about human rights in Bahrain was one of the forbidden issues and the thought of establishing such a society for protecting human rights and spreading its principles was impossible,” she said.
“That is why we consider ourselves lucky to have lived in this age of openness which has been heralded by HH the Amir Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.”
Dr Al Najjar said two issues have delayed the society in launching its activities.
“The first is that some people are demanding a lot from us from the beginning and the second is that people don’t understand the society’s role and aims,” she said.
“Some want us to run before we learn how to walk while others think of us as an opposition party and pass judgements on us on that basis.
“We are trying our best to co-operate with everybody and we would like to stress that we are not an opposition or a political front.”
Dr Al Najjar said the society has adopted around 600 complaints of violations on human rights and has forwarded their complaints to the concerned authorities.
She said several cases were successfully solved while the rest are still being followed up by society members on a daily basis.
The cases, continued Dr Al Najjar, were mostly related to the return of exiles and the granting of the citizenships to those who couldn’t get it.
Amnesty International Middle East/North Africa programme director June Ray welcomed the changes in Bahrain which are covering all aspects of life.
“They will lead to a greater benefit for people, where all types of freedom will be guaranteed by law,” she said.
“Who would have expected a decade ago that Bahrain is going to be the leading country in the Gulf in social and legal reforms,” remarked Ms Ray.
She said international pressure played a role in promoting human rights but stressed the role of local bodies, especially civil societies.
4 November 2001:ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY END 3-DAY VISIT TO BAHRAIN
By Wayne Veysey, PA News The Archbishop of Canterbury has backed the military action in Afghanistan, saying the strikes should not be seen as a religious war but as an “issue of justice”. Dr George Carey said yesterday at the end of a three-day visit to Bahrain, that Christians and Muslims regarded the September 11 attacks as “terrible, atrocious acts of violence”. He stressed that Christians and Muslims must find a way to live together in harmony or face a bleak future. He said: “If we fall into that trap of making it appear to be a religious war, this will end up with further innocent lives being lost. “It is quite important we find ways in which those who have committed such crimes are brought to justice,” he said, referring to the terrorists responsible. Dr Carey had earlier addressed about 200 people, mostly foreigners, at a cultural centre devoted to manuscripts of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, and Islamic artifacts. He also held talks with Bahrain’s leader, Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in which they discussed the conflict in Afghanistan. Dr Carey said he hoped the US-British attacks in Afghanistan would be “targeted and as brief as possible”. His speech was warmly applauded, but some members of the audience were critical. “You want to do injustice to bring justice?” Islamic educationist Ishaq Koohegi said. “This is absolutely unbelievable when it is coming from such a high-ranking Christian religious leader. “He speaks like a politician and approves of what is going on and what is hurting Islam and Muslims,” added Koohegi, who runs Discover Islam, a Bahraini group that offers courses in Muslim education. Dr Carey condemned the massacre of members of the congregation and a guard at St Dominic’s Church in Bahawalpur, Pakistan by gunmen last Sunday. He said: “The murder of people simply because they belong to a different religion from that of the majority is a shocking crime against a minority faith.” But he said that he knew that the majority of Muslims also condemned the act and called on them to speak out for minority Christians. Dr Carey said: “From Indonesia, through to Pakistan, northern Nigeria, Sudan and elsewhere Christians are more vulnerable than they have perhaps ever been. Their faith is precious to them but so is their country. “They need their Muslim brothers and sisters to speak up for them and, when extremists threaten, they need support and friendship.” He spoke of the common elements in the two faiths. “Alongside our shared humanity, spiritual quest and capacity for friendship I would also place our common longings for peace, acceptance and love.” Dr Carey said it was wrong to equate Islam with some of the policies seen recently in Afghanistan, including the repressive measures against women. “But because faith gets mixed up with other ideological and political influences, religious understanding and perception becomes distorted. “We must challenge these distortions and never settle for simplistic cultural or religious stereotypes. He admitted that some Christians had concerns about words like “Jihad” and theologies which lead young Muslims to kill others as well as themselves with the promise of paradise. But Dr Carey also said there were undoubtedly Christian zealots who troubled Muslims. He said the answer was open dialogue between the faiths, however difficult that might seem. “Christians and Muslims, whether we like it or not, are on a journey together and we live in a world where different faiths jostle side by side.”
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Visit to Bahrain …
Nov 01, 2001: An Amnesty International delegation led by Ms. June Ray, Director of the Middle East Program at the International Secretariat and including Dr. Said Boumedouha and Dr. Abdel-Mitaal Gershab, both members of the Middle East Program, will be visiting Bahrain from 3 – 8 November 2001, where they are co-organizing together with the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), a seminar on “The Role of Civil Society in Promoting a Human Rights Culture”.
The delegation will also be meeting senior government officials, as well as representatives of civil society, and former prisoners of conscience.
For more information on the activities of the delegation in Bahrain, please contact Kamal Samari at Amnesty International Press Office in London, UK, on 44 207 413 5831/ mobile: 44 777 847 2126.
Archbishop of Canterbury arrives in Bahrain
MANAMA, Nov 1 (Reuters) – The Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey arrived in Bahrain on Thursday, the first visit by the head of Anglicans worldwide to the Muslim Gulf state.
The British embassy said in a statement that Bahrain Justice and Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid al-Khalifa met Carey, who is accompanied by his wife.
“I am delighted to be in Bahrain for my first visit, and I am very much looking forward to meeting both local Bahrainis and members of the other communities on the island,” the embassy statement quoted Carey as saying.
There is a small Christian community in the island state, which has a population of around 666,000 — one-third of whom are foreigners, mainly workers from the Indian sub-continent and the Philippines.
Voice of Bahrain Commentray: November 2001
The war against Afghanistan:
Compromising international conventions
The visitors of Dubai’s Gitex computer exhibition held last month were not only astonished to see the almost empty venue, but were overwhelmed by the gloomy picture of the market in one of the most active in the Arab world. They were told many of the exhibitors cancelled their plans soon after the 11 September events, and many visitors were too terrified of flying to venture out in an aeroplane to the Gulf. It may look remote from the war scene in Afghanistan but the roots of the problem are not totally detached from the Gulf geopolitics.
After all, Osama bin Laden who is wanted by the United States alive or dead, is a Saudi and many of his followers come from the mainland Arabia. The degree of sophistication of his operations and mental framework is not totally detached from the religious tendencies in that part of the world. The irony is that despite the enormity of the event and the anger of the United States of America, religious figures in Saudi Arabia have gone on the record to condone what Bin Laden is being accused of doing. Internet cites carry the edicts of these scholars, while the Saudi authorities struggle to maintain a balance between its internal and external affairs.
It could be argued that the Saudi government is facing one of its most crucial tests in its balancing acts. The success or failure of this test will have long-term consequences. The Americans may be able to defend the Saudis against an outside threat, but the internal situation is one that has had adverse effects not on the Saudis but on the Americans themselves.
The war against Afghanistan is seen as a show piece of warmongering. It is unlikely to solve the crisis created by the zeal of the anti-American groups in the region. It is true that the war against terrorism is one that is long-term, but how long?
Even the American people will become wary if the war atmosphere persists for a long time. It will adversely affect their lives and create fears and anxieties that could lead to a backlash against the government. The sensible approach to this war is to tackle its causes first. Pursuing the terrorists is only half the problem. For in this pursuit new terrorists will be created and the vicious circle of violence and counter-violence will remain unbroken.
At the heart of the problem is the American foreign policy in the world especially in the Middle East. So far, two aspects of this policy have been mentioned; the US unequivocal support of Israel and its defence of undemocratic regimes in the region. Unless a fresh approach to the Middle East is undertaken the anti-American feelings will remain. At times these feelings may be expressed in violent terms leading to terrorist acts. It is this expression of anti-Americanism that the US government is now fighting against. But could this solve the crisis?
Two points are of interest here. First the anti-American sentiments are a reflection of the general anger against the Israeli brutal policies in the occupied territories. To overcome this, the Americans need to re-evaluate their policies, disengage from the support it gives to the Israeli occupational forces, address the grievances of the Palestinian people and end the fatalistic approach to the region in terms of democracy and human rights.
Second comes the American response to the 11 September events. Three key policies are being implemented in addition to the military campaign against Afghanistan. First, both the United States and Great Britain have tilted towards the practice of censorship of their media. They have objected to the broadcast of Ben Laden policy statements, and sought to adopt pressure on others, most notably, Qatar whose Al Jazeera satellite station has been the main conduit for Ben Laden’s messages in recent weeks.
The media corpse in the two countries has refused to adopt the policy of censorship. In reality they have succumbed to the wishes of the politicians. Secondly, George W Bush has given directives to the CIA that effectively annual the 1976 directive (No 12333) by President Gerald Ford banning the agency from carrying out assassinations against the US foes.
Assassinations by Americans are now likely to take place. This single step is tantamount to endorsing terrorist practices. Assassinations carried out by unfriendly countries have always been considered acts of state terrorism. Extrajudicial killings are banned by the United Nations human rights charter. Thirdly, FBI officials are reported to have said they would resort to torture in order to extract confessions from suspects detained after 11 September. Commentators have distanced themselves from this and have rejected any justification for evil practices such as torture. It is disturbing to learn of the intentions to torture political suspects whose guilt has would not have proven at the time of torture.
It seems the world is about to witness dramatic changes in the political and human rights perceptions. Prior to the war against Afghanistan, censorship, assassinations and torture were taboos in the modern political thinking. To have this reversed as a reaction to a dreadful act by some individuals or groups is tantamount to succumbing to the dictates of evil and abandoning the most valuable achievements of the human race in terms of the dignity and sanctity of human beings. Universal values of human rights must be upheld especially by powerful nations such as the United States of America. They are not commodities that could be exploited for political ends before being abandoned.
In fact, the foundation of modern civil society are to be found in the respect of human rights and personal liberties. The Geneva Conventions regulating the conduct of war are yet another example of the achievements of mankind.
To compromise these principles is an inhumane act that could only lead to more disenchantment and anger and will be gross violations of the international spirit. It will demonstrate the lack of commitment to this spirit and will certainly undermine the moral standing of the US.
Many people in the Gulf region have expressed unease about the crisis. While they have rejected the terrorist acts of 11 September, they have also called for an end to the military campaign against Afghanistan. A solution must be sought through the United Nations that would deal with the symptoms of terrorism as well as its underlying causes. It is not the time for rejoicing as thousands of innocent lives have been lost since 11 September.
It is time to reflect seriously on many issues especially those relating to the politics of world which is dominated by one superpower. Religion is not at the heart of the crisis as some would like to assume. The crisis is borne out of political mismanagement over the past five decades, and is exasperated by the Israeli occupation of Palestine. It will be a great service to the human race if those in position to take serious decisions act in accordance with international law, respect human rights values, end Israeli occupation, address the grievances of the people of the region and tackle the issues of poverty, economic disparity and end exploitation of the natural resources of the Middle East.
Bahrain Freedom Movement
Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089