Austria sparks uproar with ‘Islam map’

Austria sparks uproar with ‘Islam map’
Muslims pray for victims of the Vienna gun attack during Friday prayer at a mosque in the Austrian capital, November 6, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 May 2021

Austria sparks uproar with ‘Islam map’

Austria sparks uproar with ‘Islam map’
  • Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled an Internet website called the ‘National Map of Islam’ with the names and locations of more than 600 mosques
  • Interactive map alarmed many of Austria’s Muslims and the ruling center-right OeVP party’s coalition partner, the Greens, also distanced itself from it

VIENNA: The Austrian government came under fire Thursday for a new “Islam map” showing the location of mosques and associations around the country, with religious groups saying it would stigmatize Austria’s Muslim population.
Earlier, Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled an Internet website called the “National Map of Islam” with the names and locations of more than 600 mosques, associations and officials and their possible links abroad.
But the interactive map — compiled in collaboration with the University of Vienna and the Documentation Center of Political Islam — alarmed many of Austria’s Muslims and the ruling center-right OeVP party’s coalition partner, the Greens, also distanced itself from it.
It “demonstrates the government’s manifest intent to stigmatize all Muslims as a potential danger,” said the IGGOe Muslim representative council in a statement.
The Green party’s spokeswoman for integration Faika El-Nagashi complained that “no Green minister or MP was involved or even told about it. The project mixes Muslims with Islamists and is the contrary to what integration policy should look like.”
Raab insisted that the map was not meant to “place Muslims in general under suspicion.”
The aim was “to fight political ideologies, not religion,” she said.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has regularly criticized what he calls “political Islam.”
“Imagine if a similar map was drawn up for Judaism or Christianity,” said Tarafa BagHajjati, the head of another Muslim organization, complaining that it equated terrorism with religion.
He pointed out that around eight percent of Austria’s overall population of 8.9 million were practicing Muslims and most of them had no links with such organizations.
“It’s worrying and I’m disappointed with the government for adopting far-right ideas,” he said.
Since an extremist attack left four people dead in Vienna last November — the first to be carried out in Austria — a rise has been reported in the number of incidents in verbal and physical attacks against Muslims in the country.
IGGOe complained that “racism against Muslims is growing.”


UN rights envoy says Taliban must reverse restrictions on Afghan women

UN rights envoy says Taliban must reverse restrictions on Afghan women
Updated 26 May 2022

UN rights envoy says Taliban must reverse restrictions on Afghan women

UN rights envoy says Taliban must reverse restrictions on Afghan women
  • Bennett expressed concerns over access to education after the Taliban made a U-turn on allowing girls to go to high school in March
  • Taliban deputy spokesman Inamullah Samangani denied human rights concerns

KABUL: The United Nations rights envoy in Afghanistan said on Thursday the country faces “severe” human rights challenges and called on Taliban authorities to reverse growing restrictions on women and investigate attacks against religious minorities.
Richard Bennett, UN special rapporteur for human rights in Afghanistan spoke to reporters at the end of an 11-day visit to the country, his first since his position was created.
“I urge the authorities to acknowledge human rights challenges that they are facing and to close the gap between their words and the deeds,” he said.
Bennett expressed concerns over access to education after the Taliban made a U-turn on allowing girls to go to high school in March and this month announced that women must cover their faces, to be enforced by punishing their closest male relatives.
“Directives on maharams (male guardians), enforcing a strict form of hijab and strong advice to stay at home feed the pattern of absolute gender segregation and making women invisible in society,” he said.
Taliban deputy spokesman Inamullah Samangani denied human rights concerns, saying authorities had paid attention to the issues mentioned and were working on the issue of girls’ secondary education.
Bennett also called for investigation of attacks targeting Afghanistan’s Shia and Sufi religious minorities, a trend he said bore “hallmarks of crimes against humanity.” Recent months have seen more attacks on mosques and other civilian targets, some of which have been claimed by Daesh.
The militant group said it was behind three explosions in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Wednesday that killed at least 15 in predominantly Shia areas.
Another, unclaimed, blast the same day tore through a Sunni mosque in the capital Kabul, killing at least five people.

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EU urged to act over Bulgarian pushbacks of asylum seekers

EU urged to act over Bulgarian pushbacks of asylum seekers
Updated 26 May 2022

EU urged to act over Bulgarian pushbacks of asylum seekers

EU urged to act over Bulgarian pushbacks of asylum seekers
  • HRW claimed authorities had been “beating, robbing, stripping, and using police dogs” to attack Afghan and other asylum seekers and migrants before pushing them back to Turkey
  • HRW’s Michelle Randhawa: The EU should ensure that Bulgaria immediately stops the illegal and dehumanizing pushbacks at its borders and allow asylum seekers access to fair procedures

LONDON: An international human rights organization has urged the EU to act over reports of Bulgarian authorities engaging in “illegal pushbacks” of asylum seekers along the country’s border with Turkey.

Human Rights Watch claimed authorities had not only been refusing to conduct formal interviews and asylum procedures but had been “beating, robbing, stripping, and using police dogs” to attack Afghan and other asylum seekers and migrants before pushing them back to Turkey.

Refugee and migrant rights officer at HRW, Michelle Randhawa, said: “Bulgarian authorities are brutally and summarily pushing back migrants and asylum seekers.

“The European Union should ensure that Bulgaria immediately stops the illegal and dehumanizing pushbacks at its borders and allows asylum seekers access to fair asylum procedures.”

The latest episode follows July’s unanimous decision of the European Court of Human Rights that the Bulgarian government had violated the European Convention on Human Rights after its illegal pushback of a Turkish journalist without conducting a risk assessment or allowing the removal to be challenged.

Bulgaria’s own human rights watchdog, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee recorded 2,513 pushbacks of nearly 50,000 in 2021, more than trebling the number recorded a year earlier.

HRW interviewed 15 men, 14 of whom claimed Bulgarian police, “or men believed to be Bulgarian police,” beat them either on Bulgarian territory as well as in the course of forcibly returning them to Turkey, with 10 of the men claiming they had been stripped and robbed.

The one man who did report having been beaten or witnessed any beatings was travelling with his wife and three children at the time, and said he was taken directly to the border.

Of those interviewed, 12 said police dogs were used in the process of being pushed back, with five reporting having themselves been bitten or witnessed someone within the group they were being held with being bitten.

One interviewee said: “There was a man (in our group) who started speaking Bulgarian. That man had worked in Bulgaria for three or four years and that’s how he knew the language, the police asked him questions, then they released the dog on him. He was begging in Bulgarian for them to stop the dog.

“(We all) saw it, his hands were bleeding, after this attack, police were scaring this person with the dog. The dog’s leash was in their hands, and they would pretend to release it.”

Bulgarian authorities have failed to respond to HRW’s request for comment, while the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) told the NGO that the 192 officers it had posted along Bulgaria’s borders, “must follow the Frontex code of conduct.”

Frontex said: “The code of conduct states that, ‘throughout their operational duties and within the confines of their mandate and powers, participants in Frontex operational activities commit to ensure assistance to, in particular, vulnerable persons and persons seeking international protection.’

“All Frontex deployed officers have a clear responsibility to identify and refer the persons in need of international protection, medical assistance, unaccompanied minors, victims of trafficking in human beings, and other persons in a vulnerable situation to the national authorities for appropriate assistance.”

However, Frontex is itself embroiled in scandal with its former executive director, Fabrice Leggeri, having resigned at the end of April after a year-long investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office concluded that he and other Frontex staff members had covered up details on the use of illegal pushbacks.

HRW urged European institutions to hold the Bulgarian government accountable for its breaches of European law.

Randhawa added: “At a time when Bulgarian officials are welcoming Ukrainian refugees by disseminating information to them about temporary protection and living in Bulgaria, they are brutally mistreating Afghans and other asylum seekers at their border.

“Bulgarian authorities should extend the same understanding and dignified treatment to all asylum seekers as they are doing for Ukrainians.”


Crisis-hit Sri Lanka to seek ‘huge’ investment from Middle East

Crisis-hit Sri Lanka to seek ‘huge’ investment from Middle East
Updated 26 May 2022

Crisis-hit Sri Lanka to seek ‘huge’ investment from Middle East

Crisis-hit Sri Lanka to seek ‘huge’ investment from Middle East
  • New environment minister says Sri Lanka will look for a long-term credit facility for oil supplies
  • Sri Lanka has been enduring shortages of food, fuel, medicines and other essentials for months

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will seek investment from Middle Eastern countries, particularly in the petroleum sector, its new environment minister has said, as the island nation confronts its worst economic crisis in memory.

Unable to pay for imports, Sri Lanka has been enduring shortages of food, fuel, medicines and other essentials for months.

While the government negotiates a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund, the country officially defaulted on its debts last week. It must repay about $25 billion in foreign loans by 2026, but the finance ministry said earlier this month that its usable foreign reserves had plummeted to $25 million.

Naseer Ahamed, who on Tuesday assumed duties as environment minister and also oversees Middle Eastern affairs, told Arab News that his immediate priority was to attract “some huge strategic investment” and to request a loan from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Gulf for the purchase of petroleum products.

“Sri Lanka is looking at getting a long-term credit facility for the supply of crude oil, gas oil, gasoline, jet A-1 and energy gas to tide over the present crisis,” the former student of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, said. “If we can get that support from Middle Eastern countries, I am sure that we can overcome this financial crisis.”

Foreign inflows are crucial for Sri Lanka, where the devastating economic crisis — the worst since independence in 1948 — has triggered widespread demonstrations across the country since March.

The Middle East is also important for the island nation as a major source of remittances, as it is home to one million Sri Lankan nationals — 66 percent of the country’s migrant workers.

“They bring home the largest percentage of the $7 billion remitted to our national coffers,” Ahamed said. “What I am looking at is to further strengthen the relationship.”

The former chief minister of Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province is also planning to pursue environmental cooperation with Saudi Arabia, especially under its Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives launched last year to reduce carbon emissions.

“Since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, the Kingdom has taken significant steps to scale up its climate action and environmental protection,” Ahamed said.

“Now that I have taken the Ministry of Environment, we will explore how best Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka cooperate with each other in the successful implementation of the Saudi Green initiatives.”


Israel has never been held to account for its attack on USS Liberty 55 years ago, US vets say

Israel has never been held to account for its attack on USS Liberty 55 years ago, US vets say
Updated 50 min 20 sec ago

Israel has never been held to account for its attack on USS Liberty 55 years ago, US vets say

Israel has never been held to account for its attack on USS Liberty 55 years ago, US vets say
  • Survivors of USS Liberty attack demand Congressional hearing to investigate Israel’s killing of 34 Americans during the assault
  • Congress and US government are more concerned about protecting Israel than honoring the 34 servicemen killed and 173 wounded in the 1967 attack, survivors tell Arab News

CHICAGO: US military veteran survivors of the June 8, 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty communications ship said on Wednesday that they were betrayed and “stabbed in their spine” by US government efforts to protect Israel and suppress details of the unprovoked assault.

Five survivors from the USS Liberty told Arab News that after the nearly two-hour long assault by Israel they were “threatened with imprisonment” if they spoke publicly about the attack, which took the lives of 34 American servicemen and injured 173.

The survivors, all decorated American veterans and now in their seventies, demanded that Congress allow them to testify at a public hearing on what they saw, saying Israel lied when it claimed its assault fighter jets, torpedo boats and attack helicopters did not recognize the Liberty as an American ship even though it was flying the US flag.

Former Liberty naval officer, Larry Bowen, said that the American public “deserves to know the truth” about what happened, not from the bureaucrats or the pro-Israel propagandists who have vilified the survivors and called them “anti-Semitic,” but from the American veterans who survived the Israeli assault.

“What we are all seeking from our government, and that is the truth. They have been covering it up for the past 55 years and there has been evidence come out over the years to prove that no way was it a mistaken identity. So, for me, I would like to see a full Congressional investigation calling on us Liberty veterans to provide testimony so they can get the truth,” said Bowen, president of the USS Liberty Veterans Association. “The Sixth Fleet didn’t come to the aid of the severely damaged Liberty until the next day,” he said.

“After the Sixth Fleet came to our aid the following day, we had an admiral come on board, Admiral Kid, and tell us we were never to talk about it with anyone. He threatened us with fines and imprisonment, or worse, if we did. And that was the story all the way along. Even when I came off the ship, I was flown to Norfolk Virginia for my next assignment and I had a lieutenant commander tell me the same thing, we were not talk to the news press. We were not to talk to our families, friends, relatives. We weren’t to say anything at all about the incident or we would be fined or imprisoned.”


Bowen received a Purple Heart for injuries suffered during the attack, and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for his sustained exceptional performance at the time. 

The survivors said that Israel’s attack was “brutal and unrelenting.” Israeli fighter jets dropped napalm on the bridge of the ship, and shot life rafts American sailors were trying to use to save wounded shipmates. The ship had 850 cannon rocket holes and was strafed by more than 5,000 armor-piercing bullets.

The attack began at about 2 p.m. off the coast of Egypt in the Mediterranean Sea. It continued for nearly two hours. 

Mickey LeMay, 73, who was a second-class electrician in charge of the electrical department on the Liberty, said that US forces did not come to their rescue until early the next afternoon. They accused the US Navy and Israel of wanting the ship and the evidence of the attack to sink to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. The US was embarrassed and Israel wanted the attack covered up.

 

 

“We didn’t get any help from the United States until about 9 or 10 o’clock the next morning. The Russians came alongside and offered us help but nothing from the United States. They wanted us to sink. The American politicians wanted the Liberty sunk. They didn’t even send help from a doctor,” said LeMay, who still has 52 pieces of shrapnel in his body from the attack.

“Except for the Russians. They offered to stand by, and if we sunk they were going to pull the survivors out of the water.”

LeMay said he was ordered by senior officers not to speak about the incident to anyone.

Don Pageler, 76, a communications technician seriously wounded during the Israeli attack, was awarded the Presidential UNIT Citation, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medals and National Defense Medal. He was shocked that no one came to their aid.

“The Navy did try to send us help. Captain Tully, captain of the Saragtoga, said that he had 16 planes, including 12 to 14 fighter bombers, to come to our aid within 15 minutes of giving our distress call but before they were out of sight (of the Saratoga) they were recalled,” Pageler said.

Phil Tourney, who received the Bronze Star for heroism for rescuing wounded shipmates, said that the award he received mentioned the injuries “but not the state that directed the attack, Israel.” The US Government did everything possible to save Israel from blame.

 

 

Asked if the US government was built on coverups or built on the constitution, Tourney said: “It’s worse than that. They didn’t just throw us under the bus. Israel and our own government put a knife in our spine. And to all Americans, just not us, but to all Americans, they put a knife in all of your spine by what they got away with. They care less about what happened to the USS Liberty. But we are not going to stop. We are still living. Look at these guys out here. We are old men. Well, these guys are. We are not giving up. We are here for a reason. Our dead shipmates didn’t have a chance to talk but we are talking for them and we will never forget them.”

The survivors said that despite Israel’s claims, the Liberty was flying a 5 x 8 foot American flag and that the Liberty had “all the markings” of an American vessel.

Bowen said that Liberty communications intercepted reports from the Israeli attackers saying that the ship was American, but they were told to continue the assault.

“The attack was intentional. They knew well in advance that we were the USS Liberty,” Bowen said. “There were at least a half dozen overflights early in the morning by the Israelis. It was a deliberate attack. They knew who we were.”

He said there is a conspiracy to cover up what Israel knew and why they attacked, adding that there never was a full or impartial investigation by Congress. The Navy conducted a quick court of inquiry and only interviewed 14 crew members. Anyone who criticized Israel in their testimony, he said, had their testimony redacted to remove criticism that pointed a finger at Israel.

“I think it is important for our American public to realize that Israel has a hold on our government. There is something that Israel is aware of to make it impossible for our congressmen to speak out against them (Israel),” Bowen said.

“We have tried over the past 55 years to go in and talk to various senators and congressmen about getting an investigation. And each time, if they are being honest, they will tell you that AIPAC gets more play than the USS Liberty will ever get because they fund a lot of the congressmen and senators and they will not bite the hand that feeds them. We as a country can’t allow a country like Israel to dictate what we can or can’t do.”

The USS Liberty Veterans Association completed its own report in 2000, which was presented to the US military for review with the request that Israel be charged with war crimes.

“They owe the families, the survivors, and most of all America, an apology. It was treason on the high seas by our own president Lyndon Baines Johnson. If the ship (Liberty) went down they were going to blame it on the Arab countries,” Ron Kukal said.

“We need accountability and transparency now that we haven’t gotten for the past 55 years.”

That request was summarily dismissed.

  • The Ray Hanania Radio Show is broadcast on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. EST in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Washington D.C. on WDMV AM 700. It is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. EST in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 radio and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

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Putin won’t be allowed to dictate peace: Scholz

Putin won’t be allowed to dictate peace: Scholz
Vladimir Putin will not be allowed to dictate peace in Ukraine, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz said. (AP)
Updated 26 May 2022

Putin won’t be allowed to dictate peace: Scholz

Putin won’t be allowed to dictate peace: Scholz
  • Vladimir Putin will not be allowed to dictate peace in Ukraine, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz said

DAVOS: Vladimir Putin will not be allowed to dictate peace in Ukraine, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Thursday, vowing to continue backing Kyiv to push the Russian president to negotiate seriously to end his invasion.
“It is a matter of making it clear to Putin that there will be no dictated peace,” said Scholz. “Ukraine will not accept that and neither will we.”