-- Desecration, Attacks Plague Ancient Jewish Cemetery - 3/23/11
-- First Bus Bombing in Jerusalem Since 2004 Injures Dozens - 3/23/11
-- Al-Qaida No. 2 Calls for Islamic Rule in Egypt - 3/04/11
-- Plight of Christian Converts Highlights Absence of Religious Freedom in Afghanistan - 2/25/11
-- No Matter What Their U.S. Name, They're the Muslim Brotherhood - 2/11/11
Attacks Plague Ancient Jewish Cemetery
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
By Josh Lederman, Associated Press
Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, right, listens to a briefing by Jewish right-wing activist, Aryeh King at the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem's old city. Israeli politicians and American Jewish leaders are demanding the government ramp up protection to ensure the safety of the cemetery, where many of the tombstones have been smashed and litter is strewn about the ground. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Jerusalem (AP) - A wide patch of steep hillside overlooking Jerusalem's Old City holds row after row of graves. Biblical prophets, revered rabbis and a prime minister are buried there. Yet many of the tombstones have been smashed, litter is strewn around and tethered donkeys defecate on top of graves.
The ancient cemetery is just one point of contention in the struggle for control of Jerusalem, an explosive issue in decades of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
Israelis and American Jewish leaders are demanding that the Israeli government increase protection to ensure that those buried on the Mount of Olives can rest in peace.
The cemetery is believed to hold the graves of biblical prophets Haggai, Malachi and Zechariah. The list of modern Jewish figures buried there includes Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of modern Hebrew, and Nobel Prize laureate Shai Agnon.
Rabbi Avraham Kook, the chief rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine, and Rabbi Shlomo Goren, a former chief rabbi of Israel, are also buried there.
Some Israelis claim Palestinians from surrounding east Jerusalem neighborhoods attack visitors two to three times a week, sometimes stoning funeral processions. They accuse Arabs of building illegally on top of graves, using tombstones as goalposts for soccer games and lobbing firebombs to desecrate the cemetery.
At a recent visit to the cemetery, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said he's heard from hundreds of families in the U.S. who can't visit buried relatives without protection from armed guards.
"If you hear the families, the pain and the fact that they're afraid to come here, what does it say?" Hoenlein asked. "In Jerusalem, Jews can't go and visit an ancient burial site that is supposedly sacred?"
The Mount of Olives has held a holy place in Judaism since the period of the biblical First Jewish Temple more than 3,000 years ago.
It appears in the Second Book of Samuel, when King David weeps upon climbing the hill. Some Jews believe that in the end of days, the dead will be resurrected there, and Christians regard it as the place where Jesus ascended to the heavens.
At least 150,000 graves line the hill opposite the gold-capped Dome of the Rock mosque, built atop the ruins of the biblical Temples. On Friday afternoons, visitors to the cemetery can hear the Muslim prayer calls echoing across the valley from the site.
Between 1948 and 1967, the Mount of Olives was under Jordanian control. The International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeitim (Mount of Olives), a Jewish group, claims that during that period, 40,000 graves were destroyed, and new graves were built on top of old ones.
Israel seized east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move not recognized by the international community. The cemetery has been under Israeli control ever since, surrounded by Arab neighborhoods.
Palestinians claim all of east Jerusalem, including the Mount of Olives, as the capital of a future state. Projects that strengthen the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem are hotly opposed by the Palestinians and frequently lead to protests. The issue of Israeli construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank lead to a breakdown in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians last year.
Parts of the sprawling cemetery on the Mount of Olives are pristine and tranquil. In other areas, vandalism has reduced many gravestones to piles of shattered shards. Arabic graffiti blots some of the walls lining the narrow, winding pathways. In the sparser areas, farm animals can be seen standing on graves and grazing on wild grass.
There are conflicting claims that the Mount of Olives is being used as a political tool.
The Jewish activist leading the campaign to protect the cemetery is Aryeh King, who manages the nonprofit Public Office of East Jerusalem.
King said the vandalism and violence are a part of an Arab plan to make Israel more willing to cede east Jerusalem in future negotiations.
"Nobody will fight against giving these dirty, dangerous places to Arabs, because nobody's coming here," King said.
Others argue it's exactly the opposite.
"They have an interest in giving the impression that there are security problems in order to legitimize the Jewish settlements up there," said Orly Noy of Ir Amim, an Israeli nonprofit that opposes Israel's policies in east Jerusalem.
Palestinian officials and organizations declined to comment.
Jewish groups have secured the support of American and Israeli leaders for increased protection. U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., wrote to Israel's ambassador to the U.S. requesting a timetable for securing the cemetery. Information Minister Yuli Edelstein toured the Mount of Olives to show his support.
Although the Israeli government hasn't announced an increased police presence on the Mount of Olives, the Jerusalem Development Authority said it is installing 180 motion-sensitive cameras to blanket the area.
The video feeds will be monitored from a control room by a private security company. Police will also have access, enabling them to dispatch officers at the first sign of trouble.
Source URL: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/desecration-attacks-plague-ancient-jewis
Bus Bombing in Jerusalem Since 2004 Injures Dozens
AP Calls it 'Militant Attack'
March 23, 2011 By Staff, Associated Press
The scene of a terror attack on an Israeli bus stop in Jerusalem on Wednesday, March 23, 2011. The bomb exploded near a crowded bus. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Jerusalem (AP) - State-run Israel Radio says a woman has died from a bomb blast at a Jerusalem bus stop.
It is the first death from Wednesday's explosion, which also wounded more than 20 other people.
Israeli authorities have blamed Palestinian militants for the blast, the first major attack in Jerusalem in several years.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story is below.
JERUSALEM (AP) -- A bomb struck a crowded bus stop in central Jerusalem Wednesday, wounding some 25 people in what authorities said was the first major Palestinian militant attack in the city in several years.
The bombing brought back memories of the second Palestinian uprising last decade, a period in which hundreds of Israelis were killed by suicide bombings in Jerusalem and other major cities.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Israeli police blamed Palestinian militants. The attack comes as tensions have been escalating between the two sides. In recent days, Hamas and other armed groups in the neighboring Gaza Strip have been firing rockets and mortars into Israel, prompting Israeli reprisals.
"We are talking about a terror attack," said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
Israel's public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovich, told Channel 2 TV that the bomb was about four pounds (one to two kilograms) and was planted in a small bag on the sidewalk. He said security services were on alert for additional attacks.
The 3 p.m. attack occurred near the main entrance to Jerusalem, next to the city's central bus station, an area that is crowded with travelers and passers-by at all hours of the day.
The blast reverberated throughout Jerusalem and blew out the windows of two crowded buses. Rescuers removed bloodied people from the area on stretchers, as sirens from speeding ambulances wailed in the background.
Israel's national rescue service said 25 people were wounded, including four in critical condition. No deaths were reported.
Jerusalem's police chief, Aharon Franco, said there were no firm leads but authorities were investigating a possible link to a small bombing earlier this month that wounded a garbage collector as he removed the device from a trash can.
Meir Hagid, one of the bus drivers, said he heard a loud explosion as he drove by the site, located near the main entrance to Jerusalem and its central bus station.
"I heard the explosion in the bus stop," he said. He halted his vehicle and people got off. He said nobody in his bus was hurt.
Police said the bomb had been planted next to a payphone.
Samuel Conik, 20, said he ran to the scene when he heard the explosion and saw fire coming out of a phone booth. Nearby was a badly burned man with bloody legs and his skin peeling off.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the Israeli leader had decided to postpone a planned trip to Moscow on Thursday to deal with the crisis.
Police, accompanied by sniffer dogs, broke into cars near the site to search for evidence and possible additional explosives.
In the Gaza Strip, the Islamic Jihad militant group, which has carried out dozens of attacks, said it was not connected to the blast. But spokesman Khader Habib said the group "applauds all efforts to respond to the crimes committed daily against our people."
Jerusalem suffered dozens of suicide bombings that targeted buses and restaurants during the second Palestinian uprising last decade. But the attacks have halted in recent years. Jerusalem last experienced a suicide bombing in 2004, and the last suicide bombing in Israel occurred in 2008 in the southern town of Dimona.
Even so, the city has experienced other deadly violence. In early 2008, eight students at a Jerusalem seminary were killed when Palestinian gunmen entered the school and opened fire.
Palestinians also carried out several attacks with construction vehicles against Jerusalem in the past few years that ended with fatalities when the drivers rammed their vehicles into bystanders.
Source URL: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/first-bus-bombing-jerusalem-2004-injures
No. 2 Calls for Islamic Rule in Egypt
Friday, March 04, 2011
By Staff, Associated Press
Cairo (AP) - Osama bin Laden's deputy is urging fellow Egyptians to establish Islamic rule after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
In an Internet audio message, Ayman al-Zawahri warns the "honest and free people" of Egypt and Tunisia not to allow America and others steal the fruits of their uprisings by allowing them to install puppet regimes.
It's Al-Zawahri's fourth message since the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The 28-minute recording was posted on a militant website Friday.
He also urged Yemenis to continue their struggle to topple President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime, which he said turned Yemen into an American spy base. Yemen is home to an al-Qaida offshoot.
Before becoming deputy al-Qaida leader, the Egyptian al-Zawahri headed the Al-Jihad extremist group that battled Mubarak's regime.
Source URL: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/al-qaida-no-2-calls-islamic-rule-egypt
Plight of Christian Converts Highlights Absence of Religious
Freedom in Afghanistan
Friday, February 25, 2011
By Patrick Goodenough
A New Testament in Dari, one of Afghanistan’s two official languages. (Photo: AfghanBibles.org)
(Editor’s note: Adds U.N. High Commission for Refugees' comment)
(CNSNews.com) – An Afghan convert to Christianity facing the death penalty for apostasy has been freed, but others remain in prison, and advocacy groups say the underlying problem – the glaring absence of religious freedom in a country where American and other soldiers are fighting and dying – must be addressed.
Said Musa, a 46 year-old Red Cross worker arrested last May, was freed from prison in recent days “after aggressive international diplomacy engaged Afghanistan’s government,” the Washington-based group International Christian Concern announced Thursday.
ICC cited a U.S. Embassy official as saying this week that Musa was safely out of the country.
Musa, an amputee who lost a leg in a landmine explosion while in the Afghan army, became a Christian eight years ago.
He was among a group of at least 26 Christians arrested in May last year, after an Afghan television station screened footage of Christian converts being baptized, sparking a public furor and calls in parliament for the “apostates” to be executed.
In a letter written from prison on February 13, Musa said that after being offered asylum by representatives of the U.S. and Italian embassies, he was told by Afghan officials that he would be released within 24 hours if he wrote a statement declaring his regret for converting from Islam, ICC said.
“I laughed and told replied, ‘I cannot deny my Savior’s name,’” he wrote. “I refused their demands.”
Aidan Clay, ICC regional manager for the Middle East, warmly welcomed Musa’s release, but added that “the battle has not yet been won.”
He pointed to another Afghan Christian arrested for his faith, Shoaib Assadullah.
“We still have a long road ahead before we witness religious freedom in Afghanistan,” Clay said.
Assadullah, who is in his early- to mid-20s, is being held in a prison in the northern Mazar-e-Sharif district.
According to Barnabas Fund, a charity that helps Christians in Islamic societies, he was arrested in October after giving a New Testament in the national Dari language to another Afghan, who reported him to the authorities.
Assadullah has been threatened with the death penalty for apostasy unless he returns to Islam, Barnabas Fund says.
The organization this week also drew attention to the plight of six Afghan Christians, four of whom had featured in the controversial May 2010 television program, who fled to India and applied for asylum.
The six – two couples and two sisters – have recently had their asylum applications rejected by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, according to Barnabas Fund.
“They now face deportation to Afghanistan, where they risk arrest and possible execution for apostasy under the country’s shari’a-based law,” the organization said.
“The cases of these six dear brothers and sisters highlight the fact that Afghan converts to Christianity are safe neither inside nor outside the country,” said Barnabas Fund international director Patrick Sookhdeo. “It is a disgrace that they have been denied refuge when their very lives depend on it.”
Nayana Bose, external relations officer for UNHCR in New Delhi, said Friday that the agency as a matter of policy does not discuss the details of individual cases.
“Generally if a case is finally rejected it means that at least four different legal officers have had the opportunity to assess the claim and have found the applicant not to be in need of international protection,” she told CNSNews.com.
A Muslim woman in Afghanistan. (AP Photo)
‘No law shall contravene tenets of Islam’
Ninety-nine percent of Afghanistan’s 29 million people are Muslim. After U.S.-led forces in late 2001 ousted the fundamentalist Taliban militia that ruled most of the country, refugees returning to the country included a small number of Afghans who had converted to Christianity while living abroad, boosting the tiny indigenous community.
The State Department says estimates of the size of the Christian community range from 500 to 8,000.
The Western-backed post-Taliban government signed a new constitution into law  in January 2004 that claims to both uphold freedom of religion and enshrines the primacy of Islamic law (shari’a).
Article two states that Islam is the official religion, but “followers of other faiths shall be free within the bounds of law in the exercise and performance of their religious rights.”
Article three, however, states that “no law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam.”
And article 149 states that adherence to the tenets of Islam “shall not be amended.”
Under shari’a, any Muslim man who abandons his faith is guilty of apostasy . Leading Islamic scholars have ruled that the offense is punishable by death.
This is not the first time that apostasy issue has prompted condemnation in countries whose soldiers are helping to secure President Hamid Karzai’s administration and the Afghan people against an unrelenting Taliban insurgency.
A Christian convert from Islam named Abdul Rahman was sentenced to death in 2006 for apostasy, and only after the U.S. and other coalition members applied pressure on the Karzai government was he freed and allowed to leave the country.
‘What are we fighting for?’
A U.S. Marine Corps sergeant in action in Sangin, Afghanistan on Nov. 9, 2010. (Defense Department photo/Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury, U.S. Marine Corps)
Some 1,400 U.S. troops and more than 350 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
“What are we fighting for?” Barnabas Fund asked in a memo earlier this month.
“Despite these ongoing and costly efforts to support the new government and constitution, Afghan citizens – especially converts to Christianity – are being denied the fundamental right to choose their own faith,” it said.
“As long as the West continues to prop up the Karzai regime and refuses to demand tougher action by the Afghan government to uphold its international agreements, it is surely complicit in the persecution of converts to Christianity such as Said and Shoaib.”
In a letter to President Obama early this week urging him to secure Musa’s release Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also raised the point of the coalition’s mission in Afghanistan.
“[W]e cannot stand idly by while a fellow human being is tortured and executed merely for exercising his freedom of conscience,” he wrote. “This flies in the face of everything we say we are fighting for in Afghanistan.”
“There is absolutely no religious freedom in the country where our troops are spilling their blood,” Open Doors USA president Carl Moeller said Thursday in his response to news of Musa’s release.
He noted that Afghanistan ranked number three this year on Open Doors’ annual watchlist of the world’s worst persecutors of Christians.
Asked about the Musa case at his monthly press conference earlier this month, NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen replied that “a sentence to death or any punishment for converting from one religion to the another is in strong contradiction with everything NATO stands for.”
“Though we are primarily in Afghanistan for the sake of our own security to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists, we are of course very much aware of and are monitoring the human rights situation on the ground,” he said.
Source URL: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/plight-apostate-converts-highlights-abse
No Matter What Their U.S. Name, They're the Muslim Brotherhood
By Diana West
2/11/2011 Guess who said the following?
"The earliest defenders of Islam would defend their more numerous and better-equipped oppressors because the early Muslims loved death -- dying for the sake of almighty Allah -- more than the oppressors of Muslims loved life. This must be the case when we are fighting life's other battles."
I know I haven't asked a fair question. As Andrew McCarthy put it recently, "that leitmotif -- We love death more than you love life -- has been a staple of every jihadist from bin Laden through Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood killer."
He isn't kidding. In 2008, as McCarthy notes, the "Supreme Guide" of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Mahdi Akef, while praising Osama bin Laden, urged teaching young people "the principles of jihad so as to create mujahidin who love to die as much as others love to live." In 2004, the 3/11 bombers in Madrid left behind a tape saying, "We choose death, while you choose life." MEMRI's Steven Stalinsky has noted the origins of this necro-parable in the Battle of Qadisiyya, 636, when the Muslim commander called for the conversion to Islam of his Persian enemies "for if you don't, you should know that I have come to you with an army of men that love death, as you love life."
Just to be sporting, here's more of the same mystery quotation: "What are our oppressors going to do with a people like us? We are prepared to give our lives for the cause of Islam."
Chilling, but not helpful, right? Similar death-cult code could come from any jihadist, from Mohammed Atta, in his night-before-9/11 instructions, to Anwar al-Awlaki, in his e-mails "ministering" to the underpants bomber, Umar F. Abdulmutallab.
But could it also come from a former Bush administration appointee? A board director of the American Conservative Union (ACU), sponsor of the C-PAC convention in Washington, D.C., where the newest batch of 2012 presidential hopefuls have been speech-o-flexing before 10,000 grassroots activists?
The surprise answer is yes. The former Bush official and ACU board member who I am quoting above is Suhail Khan, a protege, you might say, of the weirdly influential, not-very-conservative activist Grover Norquist. Khan's shocking quotation -- shocking, that is, for a classic conservative, but not for a classical jihadist -- comes from a 1999 speech Khan gave at another convention, that of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
As Suhail Khan has said himself, his father, Mahboob Khan, helped found and was very active in ISNA. He said so in that same 1999 speech, further pledging as his "life's work, inspired by my dear father's shining legacy ... to work for the umma," which means transnational Islam. According to a key internal document of the Muslim Brotherhood, ISNA is a Muslim Brotherhood front, probably the largest one in America. Which means that no matter what CNN's Anderson Cooper ignorantly accepted from Khan as fact recently, Khan's father, Mahboob Khan, was part of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB or Ikhwan) in America.
That's right, America. The Brotherhood isn't merely an Egyptian movement committed to Islamic world government (caliphate) and Shariah (Islamic law); the Brothers are here. According to evidence introduced by the U.S. government in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation trial, MB claims 29 front and "friendly" organizations that include virtually every big Muslim organization such as ISNA and CAIR. Due to the mass suicidal reflex known as "Muslim Outreach,' representatives from these fronts are routinely invited into practically every American institution to pronounce on all things Islamic. What we're talking about is an influence operation to rival, or perhaps surpass, that of the communist Kremlin.
Are the ACU and C-PAC easier marks? I have read through and watched what is by now a compendium of literature on the subject, the lion's share on the subject by Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan Pentagon official who started tracking this phenomenon in 1999. I believe all the signs of an MB influence operation are there -- troubling signs that spell an ultimate transformation of C-PAC conservatism. Conservative leaders, the 10,000 activists and all those presidential hopefuls must ask themselves: At what point does MB influence become a liability for conservatives? After it's completely successful?
Diana West is a contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of the new book, The Death of the Grown-up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization.
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