31 March, 2007

Happy April Fool 's Day !!

April Fools' Day is here... and it's time for you to pull your socks and start of with your unique pranks. What are you waiting for ? ...

Below are some of the most famous April's Fool hoaxes of all time, as judged by notoriety, absurdity, and number of people duped, enjoy !

The Origin of April Fool’s Day

In 1983 the Associated Press reported that the mystery of the origin of April Fool's Day had finally been solved. Joseph Boskin, a History professor at Boston University, had discovered that the celebration had begun during the Roman empire when a court jester had boasted to Emperor Constantine that the fools and jesters of the court could rule the kingdom better than the Emperor could. In response, Constantine had decreed that the court fools would be given a chance to prove this boast, and he set aside one day of the year upon which a fool would rule the kingdom. The first year Constantine appointed a jester named Kugel as ruler, and Kugel immediately decreed that only the absurd would be allowed in the kingdom on that day. Therefore the tradition of April Fools was born. News media throughout the country reprinted the Associated Press story. But what the AP reporter who had interviewed Professor Boskin for the story hadn't realized was that Boskin was lying. Not a word of the story was true, which Boskin admitted a few weeks later. Boston University issued a statement apologizing for the joke, and many papers published corrections.

15th Annual New York City April Fool’s Day Parade

n 2000 a news release was sent to the media stating that the 15th annual New York City April Fool's Day Parade was scheduled to begin at noon on 59th Street and would proceed down to Fifth Avenue. According to the release, floats in the parade would include a "Beat 'em, Bust 'em, Book 'em" float created by the New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle police departments. This float would portray "themes of brutality, corruption and incompetence." A "Where's Mars?" float, reportedly built at a cost of $10 billion, would portray missed Mars missions. Finally, the "Atlanta Braves Baseball Tribute to Racism" float would feature John Rocker who would be "spewing racial epithets at the crowd." CNN and the Fox affiliate WNYW sent television news crews to cover the parade. They arrived at 59th Street at noon only to discover that there was no sign of a parade, at which point the reporters realized they had been hoaxed. The prank was the handiwork of Joey Skaggs, an experienced hoaxer. Skaggs had been issuing press releases advertising the nonexistent parade every April Fool's Day since 1986.

World to End Tomorrow

On March 31, 1940 the Franklin Institute issued a press release stating that the world would end the next day. The release was picked up by radio station KYW which broadcast the following message: "Your worst fears that the world will end are confirmed by astronomers of Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. Scientists predict that the world will end at 3 P.M. Eastern Standard Time tomorrow. This is no April Fool joke. Confirmation can be obtained from Wagner Schlesinger, director of the Fels Planetarium of this city." The public reaction was immediate. Local authorities were flooded with frantic phone calls. The panic only subsided after the Franklin Institute assured people that it had made no such prediction. The prankster responsible for the press release turned out to be William Castellini, the Institute's press agent. He had intended to use the fake release to publicize an April 1st lecture at the institute titled "How Will the World End?" Soon afterwards, the Institute dismissed Castellini.

Titanic Replica Cruises English Channel

In 2001 hundreds were lured out to a windy, treacherous outlook atop a cliff in Beachy Head, East Sussex in the hopes of catching a glimpse of a replica of the Titanic (constructed by the AFD Construction company) sail past through the English Channel. The fact that much of the land had been made off limits to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease did not deter them. They came anyway, many of them driving from 30 or 40 miles away. They had learned about the chance to see the Titanic from a deejay broadcasting on Southern FM radio. So many showed up that the cliffs actually developed a crack from their weight. A few days later portions of the cliffs collapsed into the water, but luckily by that time everyone had long gone.

Hong Kong Powdered Water

In 1982 the South China Morning Post announced that a solution to Hong Kong's water shortage was at hand. Scientists, it said, had found a way to drain the clouds surrounding the island's peak of their water by electrifying them via antennae. The paper warned that this might have a negative impact on surrounding property values, but the government had approved the project nevetheless. Furthermore, more clouds could be attracted to the region by means of a weather satellite positioned over India. And finally, as a back-up, packets of powdered water imported from China would be distributed to all the residents of Hong Kong. A single pint of water added to this powdered water would magically transform into ten pints of drinkable water. Hong Kong's radio shows were flooded with calls all day from people eager to discuss these solutions to the water shortage. Many of the calls were very supportive of the plans, but one woman pointed out that the pumps needed to supply powdered water would be too complicated and expensive.

Instant Color TV

In 1962 there was only one tv channel in Sweden, and it broadcast in black and white. The station's technical expert, Kjell Stensson, appeared on the news to announce that thanks to a newly developed technology, all viewers could now quickly and easily convert their existing sets to display color reception. All they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their tv screen, and they would begin to see their favorite shows in color. Stensson then proceeded to demonstrate the process. Reportedly, hundreds of thousands of people, out of the population of seven million, were taken in. Actual color tv transmission only commenced in Sweden on April 1, 1970.

Around the World for 210 Guineas

1972 was the 100-year anniversary of Thomas Cook's first round the world travel tour. To commemmorate the occasion, the London Times ran a full article about Cook's 1872 tour, in which it noted that the vacation had cost the participants only 210 guineas each, or approximately $575. Of course, inflation had made a similar vacation quite a bit more expensive by 1972. A few pages later, the Times included a small article noting that in honor of the 100-year anniversary, the travel agent Thomas Cook was offering 1000 lucky people the chance to buy a similar package deal at 1872 prices. The offer would be given to the first 1000 people to apply. The article noted that applications should be addressed to "Miss Avril Foley." The public response to this bargain-basement offer was swift and enthusiastic. Huge lines of people formed outside the Thomas Cook offices, and the travel agent was swamped with calls. Belatedly the Times identified the offer as an April Fool's joke and apologized for the inconvenience it had caused. The people who had waited in line for hours were, to put it mildly, not amused. The reporter who wrote the article, John Carter, was fired (though he was later reinstated).

Internet Spring Cleaning

In 1997 an email message spread throughout the world announcing that the internet would be shut down for cleaning for twenty-four hours from March 31 until April 2. This cleaning was said to be necessary to clear out the "electronic flotsam and jetsam" that had accumulated in the network. Dead email and inactive ftp, www, and gopher sites would be purged. The cleaning would be done by "five very powerful Japanese-built multi-lingual Internet-crawling robots (Toshiba ML-2274) situated around the world." During this period, users were warned to disconnect all devices from the internet. The message supposedly originated from the "Interconnected Network Maintenance Staff, Main Branch, Massachusetts Institute of Technology." This joke was an updated version of an old joke that used to be told about the phone system. For many years, gullible phone customers had been warned that the phone systems would be cleaned on April Fool's Day. They were cautioned to place plastic bags over the ends of the phone to catch the dust that might be blown out of the phone lines during this period.

Drunk Driving on the Internet

An article by John Dvorak in the April 1994 issue of PC Computing magazine described a bill going through Congress that would make it illegal to use the internet while drunk, or to discuss sexual matters over a public network. The bill was supposedly numbered 040194 (i.e. 04/01/94), and the contact person was listed as Lirpa Sloof (April Fools backwards). The article said that the FBI was going to use the bill to tap the phone line of anyone who "uses or abuses alcohol" while accessing the internet. Passage of the bill was felt to be certain because "Who wants to come out and support drunkenness and computer sex?" The article offered this explanation for the origin of the bill: "The moniker 'Information Highway' itself seems to be responsible for SB 040194... I know how silly this sounds, but Congress apparently thinks being drunk on a highway is bad no matter what kind of highway it is." The article generated so many outraged phone calls to Congress that Senator Edward Kennedy's office had to release an official denial of the rumor that he was a sponsor of the bill.


AUSTRALIA: Controversial visit by Singapore's founding father

Singapore's founding leader, Lee Kuan Yew, says Australia has outgrown the dark future he once predicted, that Australians would be the "poor white trash of Asia". Mr Lee was speaking in Canberra after receiving an honorary law doctorate from the Australian National University.

Presenter/Interviewer: Graeme Dobell
Speakers: Singapore's founding leader, Lee Kuan Yew

DOBELL: Lee Kuan Yew is 83, but he still knows how to throw a political punch, at protesters or questioning journalists.

LEE: I'm quite accustomed to a hostile group of questions, it's not going to change me and I'm not going to change you. We are going to prosper, you are going to prosper. But if I allow you to run my country it will spiral downwards and will hit rockbottom.

DOBELL: The protests from university staff and students were about Singapore's human rights record and whether Lee Kuan Yew should be honoured. Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has acknowledged some concerns about Singapore's record, but emphasised Mr Lee's role as what he calls a great regional leader. The citation for the honorary doctor of laws describes Mr Lee as the father of modern Singapore, a statesman of unique standing in the Asia Pacific and an honest friend of Australia.

After the receiving the award, Mr Lee gave was asked about the protesters, outside the hall, who described him as a dictator. He replies that Singapore meets every governance standard as set by the World Economic Forum in its global competitiveness report.

LEE: Run through every single item, rule of law, transparency, integrity of the system, efficiency of the civil service, confidence of the courts both domestically and internationally.

JOURNO: Would you have allowed a similar protest when you were prime minister to occur in your country?

LEE: Well you know I have protests of about 100 to 100-thousand people, communist-led, and in the 1950s and 60s if I didn't have the kind of robust energy to counter them in a huge heckling exchange I wouldn't be here today.

DOBELL: The university citation describes Singapore's founding leader as a long standing and candid friend of Australia, who hasn't hesitated to tell Australia when it's in error. Most famously, nearly 40 years ago, Lee Kuan Yew warned Australians that they could become the poor white trash of Asia. Today, he says, Australia is different.

LEE: No you have changed, I mean the Australia I came to in 1965 was a very different Australia, you were a white Australia, there was the Asian exclusion act, and in 1960s the US changed their rules and in 1967 or 68 you changed yours, and Canadians followed suit and we lost a lot of talent. And today we've not only lost Malaysians and others who used to come to Singapore, in your last census there were 50-thousand Singapore born persons now in Australia, and more will come over time because they find when they can't make the top jobs and it's easier living here.


Chieft of anti-graft agency leaves office under corruption allegation cloud

Malaysia's top-anti graft official left office Saturday facing corruption allegations, but the government bid him farewell with a commendation of his leadership and "proactive" work.

In a statement released through the official Bernama news agency, the government said it was not renewing the employment contract of Zulkipli Mat Noor, head of the Anti-Corruption Agency, when it expired Saturday.

The statement, issued late Friday, expressed the government's "highest gratitude and thanks" to Zulkipli for his services during the six years he held the post.

"Under the leadership of (Zulkipli), various proactive and renewal efforts were undertaken including upgrading the network of collaboration at the international level," the statement said.

Zulkipli is being investigated by national police over allegations he illegally amassed substantial property and assets and misused government vehicles.

He has not been available for comment since the controversy began.

Zulkipli has denied the allegations to police. Police have questioned 21 witnesses including Mohamad Ramli Manan, a former state director at the Anti-Corruption Agency, who first made the corruption allegations.

The case has become an embarrassment for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who promised to crack down on corrupt officials when he took power in 2003. Malaysia was ranked 44th in Transparency International's corruption index last year, an improvement of seven places from 2003.

Zulkipli, 57, joined the Royal Malaysian Police in 1949 as an officer in the Special Branch and later became its head. He was appointed chief of the Anti-Corruption Agency on April 1, 2001, on a two-year contract. It was extended three times until he reached retirement age in July 2005.

Subsequently, the contract was extended for one year until July 20, 2006, and once again for about nine months until March 31, 2007, the statement said. It did not explain why the last contract was for less than a year.


30 March, 2007

Destruction of Non-Muslim Worship Centers Riles Faith Minorities in Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) - The cavernous pink Putra Mosque with its soaring minaret is one of the most commanding sights and popular tourist photo backdrops in the new city of Putrajaya.

A house of worship for thousands of Muslims in the 8-year-old administrative capital of Malaysia, it is a showcase of the nation's dominant faith — Islam.

But the mosque also highlights the fact that Putrajaya doesn't have a single church or temple — a fact that minority Buddhists, Hindus and Christians see as one example of the second-class treatment other faiths get in this Muslim-majority country

Religious minorities have long complained about obstacles in getting the government's permission to build places of worship in Malaysia. But their frustrations have grown amid recent accusations by religious rights activists that authorities are destroying non-Muslim shrines, heating up racial bitterness that has simmered for decades beneath a veneer of multicultural harmony.

"There is much disillusionment" among non-Muslims, said P. Uthayakumar, a Hindu lawyer who has launched a court battle to prevent authorities from demolishing temples. "Every time a temple is demolished, the people's confidence is shaken further."

The issue of churches and temples is part of a wider debate in Malaysia regarding racial and religious rights. Majority ethnic Malays, who are exclusively Muslim, enjoy a host of privileges, while other groups struggle with issues such as a perceived lack of recourse when they get into legal disputes with Muslims over religious matters.

"The debate and conflict over places of worship for non-Muslims is one of the results of the radicalized communitarian politics," says Farish Noor, a Malaysian Muslim political analyst.

"Thus far the Malaysian government has been talking about being a government for all Malaysians, but sadly we see that the Malay-Muslim agenda still dominates politics at a major level."

Some observers say the destruction of temples reflects the government's failure under Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who took power in 2003, to curb attempts by some Malays to assert their influence and privileges.

Abdullah, who espouses a philosophy of progressive moderate Islam, warned in November that he would not allow anyone to "hijack Islam in Malaysia in order to breed intolerance and hatred."

However, there has been an increasing perception among non-Muslims over the past year that some politicians and religious authorities have become overzealous in trying to ensure that the status of Malays and their religion remains unthreatened.

Malaysia has not seen major racial violence since May 1969, when hundreds were killed in riots between Malay Muslims — two-thirds of the country's 26 million people — and ethnic Chinese who are 25 percent of the population.

Most Chinese are Buddhists or Christians. Ethnic Indians, the smallest minority, are largely Hindus.

Racial harmony between the three groups is a fine balance, maintained mainly because the minorities have not made a fuss about Islam's primacy, and are accepting and thankful for the relative freedom they have to practice their faith.

But critics say that although religious freedom is a constitutional right, minorities are being indirectly victimized by laws and arcane rules.

Among them, religious conversion of ethnic Malay Muslims is illegal; authorities have strict guidelines that limit the number of non-Muslim places of worship, partly based on whether there are enough non-Muslims in an area to justify having a church or temple.

According to Town Planning Department guidelines non-Muslim places of worship can only be built after taking into account racial "harmony ... and not touch on the sensitivities of other faiths."

Laws also allow for the demolition of temples and churches built on sites deemed unsuitable by city officials.

In the past year, activists allege there have been increasing demolitions, especially involving Hindu temples. The Hindu Rights Action Force lobby group claims more than 70 Hindu temples were razed or threatened with such action in 2006.

Many Hindu temples were built by plantation laborers, without official approval, before the country's independence from Britain in 1957.

The Hindu coalition has urged the government to declare temple locations as religious land reserves, which would protect them. It filed a court application in December seeking an injunction to halt any further demolitions.

Malaysia is one of Southeast Asia's most placid countries, and there is no immediate alarm that the issue will trigger serious unrest. Nevertheless, some demolitions sparked violent confrontations that could be a sign of simmering tensions.

In November, police fired warning shots to quell a fracas between dozens of protesters and demolition workers who flattened part of a Chinese temple deemed to have been built illegally in northern Penang state.

The main problem for Christians, meanwhile, is getting approval to build new churches; a Roman Catholic church, for instance, was held up 18 years. Many Protestant churches are forced to occupy commercial shop and office premises because they cannot obtain government consent.

The government rejects claims of discrimination, pointing out that the demolished temples were built illegally and that its policies allow for sufficient non-Muslim places of worship.

"Planning rules will definitely take care of all religious needs," Housing and Local Government Minister Ong Ka Ting, a Chinese, told The Associated Press.

"Under the planning guidelines, all the new development must provide for non-Muslim places of worship. All (authorities) should abide by this and implement this accordingly."

Such assurances, however, sometimes seem slow to be translated to action. Catholic Malaysians have been working since 2005 to set up a church in Putrajaya, but church officials say they are still awaiting the government's blessings for the church design.

The Rev. Julian Leow, a priest involved in the project, estimates hundreds of Catholics in Putrajaya, a city of 50,000, currently have to travel to neighboring districts for Mass.

"It would be very significant to have a church in the administrative capital," Leow said. "It would be a showcase (for religious diversity) that Malaysia can present,not only to Catholics but to the whole world."

Sean Yoong

(Associated Press Writer , via The Christian Post)


Deputy Premier Najib in Trouble?

Pressure mounts in Kuala Lumpur to put the brakes on a scandal-tainted Malay politico

Speculation is increasing in Malaysia that of one of the country ‘s elite politicians, Deputy Prime Minister Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, is in serious trouble due to a series of messy scandals.

There is considerable speculation that Najib, the son of Malaysia’s second prime minister, will be forced to step down from national politics. One rumor has him becoming chief minister of his native Pahang state, although the exit route for most discredited or politically suspect figures in Malaysia is a diplomatic or other posting overseas, according to sources contacted by Asia Sentinel. In any case, on March 13, he became sufficiently concerned that he called a press conference in his Perak constituency to deny rumors that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was considering dumping him in favor of Muhyidin Yassin, currently minister of agriculture and agro-based industries and a Badawi ally.

Najib is said to be fighting back on a several fronts, making the rounds of the old bulls of the United Malays National Organization, Malaysia’s biggest political party, in an effort to save his career. In January, Najib reportedly flew to London to attempt to meet with Mahathir Mohamad, the octogenarian former prime minister who still carries considerable clout inside UMNO, in an attempt to shore up his support. Mahathir reportedly declined to see him.

In particular Najib has been wounded by speculation of his involvement, however peripheral, in the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, the 28 year-old Mongolian beauty whose body was found in a patch of jungle outside a Kuala Lumpur on October 20. Two policemen from an elite Special Operations Force whose ultimate boss was Najib were arrested for the crime. Altantuya disappeared after attempting to confront Abdul Razak Baginda, the head of a think tank closely tied to Najib, over support for her 18-month-old son. Razak Baginda is also facing charges for conspiring in the murder

Originally, a third member of the force – a 22-year-old woman lance corporal – was also arrested. She was never named in news stories by Malaysia’s government-friendly press and was released a week later without being charged. There is widespread speculation in Malaysia that she is the aide-de-camp and bodyguard to Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor.

Razak Baginda is scheduled to go on trial in June. The case leaves open the question of how two – and possibly three ‑ elite police officers became involved with a political analyst who has no formal government authority. The top leadership of UMNO, the dominant force in the ruling national coalition, have been tiptoeing gingerly around the case ever since the arrests in November.

Razak Baginda, originally scheduled to go on trial in March 2008, had his trial date moved up by months in an unusual move. That has raised additional questions in political circles over whether the move was engineered by Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi or individuals close to him because there is evidence that would tie Najib to the case.

Kuala Lumpur’s energetic blogs are buzzing with rumors that prosecutors have a letter indicating that Najib asked Malaysia’s Immigration Department to issue the doomed Altantuya a visa, and that at one point Najib, Razak Baginda and Altantuya were said to have gone overseas from Malaysia together, although others point out that visitors from Russia, China, Mongolia and from lots of other countries can get visas very easily to visit Malaysia.

In addition to questions over the murder case, Najib is also under fire for the 2002 purchase by the Malaysian Ministry of Defense of three submarines that cost the treasury RM$4.5 billion (US$1.3 billion) for which a company controlled by Abdul Razak Baginda was paid a commission of RM510 million (US$147.3 million) in a sale that included no competitive tenders.

Although Najib was cleared in an investigation at the time of the purchase, his position has been weakened enough by the Altantuya scandal that opposition politicians, particularly onetime Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, have again begun to assail him over it. On the Al-Jazeera television network, Anwar Thursday also questioned commissions paid over the purchase of 18 Russian Sukhoi-30 jet fighters in 2003 when Najib was defence minister.

"There are complicities over the huge and massive commissions accrued by the government involving the Defence Ministry, Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak," said Anwar during the interview.

Najib said he wouldn't respond to Anwar's charges. But, he told reporters recently, "Don't listen to the stories on the internet...they are all a myth. We should not react hastily, we must stick to principles and the truth...what is important is that we understand and know who will help us."

Driving Najib from national politics would be difficult. In addition to the cachet he enjoys from being his father’s son, as deputy party president he has strong ties among UMNO leaders in a career that goes back to 1978 as a functionary in the very strong UMNO Youth wing. The party’s nearly 200 division chiefs are key to his political wellbeing, and reports are that he has been wooing them assiduously, arranging in some cases for overseas junkets.

And, as UMNO goes, so goes Malaysian politics. Despite its endemic corruption and the pervasive sense of rot at the top, it appears highly unlikely that any outside political force could even dent it. Anwar Ibrahim, who was jailed on charges of sexual abuse that were widely perceived as spurious, has been leading a reform party movement, making speeches across the country about party corruption and in particular Najib’s connection to it.

But few believe Anwar has any chance to take down UMNO. The odds are instead that if Najib were to be sent packing, it would be at the behest of UMNO leaders who have decided he is too hot to handle, not by the country’s full electorate.



Subashini granted temporary injunction to stop husband from syariah court action

R. Subashini's Muslim convert husband has been temporarily prevented from using the syariah court to dissolve their civil marriage, seek custody of their children, and unilaterally convert one child.

In a majority decision today, the Court of Appeal granted Subashini an interim injunction to restrain T. Saravanan, now known by his Muslim name of Muhamad Shafi Saravanan Abdullah, from proceeding with his case at the syariah courts pending the disposal of her application to the Federal Court to hear her appeal of the appeal court's earlier decision.

On March 13, the same Court of Appeal bench, in a majority decision with Justice Gopal Sri Ram dissenting, had dismissed Subashini's appeal to stop Saravanan from dissolving their marriage, seeking custody of their children and unilaterally converting their children to Islam, saying she could seek recourse through the Syariah Appeal Court.

The three-person bench was chaired by Sri Ram, and also comprised Justices Datuk Hasan Lah and Datuk Suriyadi Halim Omar.

Today's injunction order prevents Saravanan from converting his second child, one-year-old Sharvind, to Islam.

The formerly Hindu businessman converted the first child, Dharvin Joshua, to Islam without Subashini's knowledge.

Sri Ram and Hasan allowed the injunction, while Suriyadi dissented but no reason was given for his decision.

Lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, representing Subashini told the court their application for leave to appeal against the March 13 Court of Appeal decision would become pointless if Saravanan proceeded and succeeded with his actions in the syariah court.

"This would render the application for leave and the subsequent appeal nugatory, and deprive Subashini of the fruits of her litigation," said Malik Imtiaz.

He said the effect of the Court of Appeal's majority decision on March 13 was so momentous, in that for the first time the civil courts have told a non-Muslim that she must submit to the syariah courts to be adjudicated according to Islamic law.

The Federal Court, Malik Imtiaz said, ought to be given an opportunity to properly consider the application to appeal.

"It would, therefore, also be in the public interest for the status quo to be preserved," he added.

Suriyadi asked Malik Imtiaz if there had been any attempts by Saravanan to convert the second child.

Malik Imtiaz said, as far as they knew, there was none.

Suriyadi then said, since there was no change to the status quo on the matter, Malik Imtiaz had to provide concrete reasons for his argument.

"You want an injunction, you establish to me the reasons for it. Likewise, I want to approach the case in a clinical manner and not be influenced by external factors," said Suriyadi.

Sri Ram asked if there was still a tussle between Saravanan and Subashini over custody of their children, to which Malik Imtiaz said it has yet to be decided on.

Suriyadi pointed out that an ex-parte interim order had been issued by the Syariah High Court giving custody of the elder son to Saravanan on May 23, 2006.

Lawyer representing Saravanan, Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, said Subashini's application was an attempt to restrain her husband from proceeding to seek recourse through the syariah courts following the March 13 Court of Appeal decision.

Mohamed Khatri Haniff also argued that it should be the Federal Court that heard today's application, but his argument was shot down by Sri Ram who said the Court of Appeal had the authority to do so.

The lawyer also said the move was akin to the court attempting to review its previous decision.

Sri Ram said there was no such attempt.

"This is a very serious encroachment of her rights. Injunctions are normally granted by the courts on the basis of preventing injustice," said Sri Ram.

He also noted that there were no circumstances to show that Saravanan planned to convert Sharvind.

But Malik Imtiaz said there was no guarantee that would not happen, hence the threat still existed.

Following today's interim injunction, Subashini later filed the leave application to the Federal Court.

Haris Mohd Ibrahim, K. Shanmuga and Richard Wee Thiam Seng appeared together with Malik Imtiaz while Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar appeared with Mohamed Haniff Khatri.

Meera Samanther held a watching brief for the Women's Aid Organisation, Women's Centre For Change, Women's Development Collective, Sisters In Islam, All Women's Action Society and the Bar Council, and Ng Chek for the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism.

(From Sun2surf)

Meanwhile, Unspun’s been told that one of Jakarta’s top TV stations, Mero TV, has been interviewing a host of Indonesians including Budi Putra, Wimar Witoelar, Nukman Lutfie and Nila Tanzil on their views about Malaysian Tourism Minister Tengku Adnan’s outburst against bloggers, read here for more details.

Find out from Unspun Why Malaysia’s ministers are blogophobic here.

The government has to find ways to curtail bloggers from abusing the Internet to spread lies and defame the leaders, said Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob (BN-Bera).

"We notice that a lot of bloggers have been sowing the seeds of discord among the races, religions... I believe there must be a limit," he said in a debate on the royal address in the Dewan Rakyat here today.

He felt that there ought to be a law governing bloggers like those imposed on the print and broadcast media.

"The people believe more in the bloggers than the newspapers... I am aware that a newspaper was censured by the Internal Security Ministry for publishing a sensational story but the bloggers could continue churning out malicious stories," he said.

Ismail Sabri also proposed the promulgation of an aerospace policy and law like those of the United Kingdom, Russia, United States and South Africa to protect the government and industry.

"From what I understand, although microsatellites were launched by the private sector, if there were a mishap, the government has to bear the consequences as the application was made by the government," he said.

From Manila Times : "Malaysian Islamic scholars want TV to honor The Prophet"

Something that serious Christians would like to happen in the Philippines this Holy Week: for TV stations to be more respectful of religion.

In Malaysia that’s what Islamic scholars and clerics wish would happen, too. That’s why a tussle is under way over a popular Ma­laysian television talent show after Islamic scholars called for the postponement of its next broadcast, Saturday March 31, which is Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.

The influential muftis have called on private cable operator Astro to delay its Akademi Fantasia program this Saturday, saying it would be disrespectful as Muslims worldwide celebrate the Prophet’s birthday.

“Have respect for Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. Mus­lims will be celebrating that day with readings of the Koran and various religious programs,” the mufti of northern Perak state, Ha­russani Zakaria, was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times last Tuesday.

“We do not want that day to be marred by the concert. Astro can always have it on some other day,” he said.

Akademi Fantasia, which has legions of loyal fans, is a spin-off from a Mexican talent show and features contestants performing in a weekly Saturday concert broadcast live.

Astro Ria, the channel which airs the show, has reportedly refused to reschedule the show, saying the preparations have already been made.

The newspaper said Malaysia’s Islamic Development Department had called on the station to be more sensitive, while another mufti, calling for a postponement, also questioned the show’s worth.

“This program does not help in any way to build the minds of our youngsters or their identities,” northern Perlis state’s mufti, Asri Zainul Abidin, was quoted as saying.

The criticism follows a yearlong ban imposed by state radio and television on a well-known Malaysian actress earlier this month after she compared gossip about one of her relationships to the Prophet Muhammad’s wife.

Her comments sparked outrage from viewers and attracted the attention of the Islamic authorities.

A number of media outlets in the Muslim majority country have also been punished in the past year for content deemed insulting to Islam.

The Cost Of Corruption

Every year, the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, the same group that holds the high-powered annual meeting in Davos, publishes a Global Competitiveness Report.

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29 March, 2007

Mahathir returns to political arena with scathing attack on government

Former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad returned to the political arena Thursday after a five-month gap forced by illness, renewing his attacks on the government by accusing it of corruption, nepotism and weakness.

"We have corrupt leaders who favor their relatives," Mahathir, 81, said in a speech, apparently referring to his successor-turned-foe, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

It was Mahathir's first public speech at an event organized by a ruling party branch since November when he suffered a heart attack and was forced to suspend a yearlong campaign against Abdullah.

Mahathir has alleged that Abdullah's son and son-in-law have benefited in their business because of his office but has offered no proof. Abdullah has denied the allegations.

The vitriolic attacks by Mahathir, who was in power for 22 years, had shocked the nation given that Abdullah was his hand-picked successor.

Mahathir chose to resume his campaign in Kulai, a small town of palm oil traders and other business people in the southern state of Johor, a stronghold of the ruling United Malays National Organization party. His audience was about 300 UMNO members and other town residents.

While it was clear that he still has the capacity to draw crowds, the small number also was proof that people may be getting tired of his repetitious allegations that Abdullah is corrupt and that his government has compromised national sovereignty by bowing to demands by neighboring Singapore.

Mahathir explained the small crowd by saying his supporters were afraid of being harassed by the government. "Before there were thousands who would assemble and kiss my hands," he said.

Mahathir's anger against Abdullah stems from his decision last year to abandon a project to build a bridge from Johor to Singapore across the narrow strip of sea separating the two countries.

Abdullah's government says it decided to scrap the project — a Mahathir brainchild — because of unacceptable demands by Singapore. Mahathir says the administration had no guts to negotiate properly with Singapore.

"We see that our country has no courage to build something in our own territory because we are scared of other people," Mahathir said Thursday.

He also picked a new topic to criticize the government — a special economic zone being planned in Johor where investors would be given a range of incentives and concessions to set up industries. The aim is largely to attract investors from Singapore.

"If we surrender our territory to foreigners we will lose our rights to foreigners," Mahathir said, adding that the country's ethnic Malay majority will not be able to compete with the foreigners who will come equipped with better business skills, money and government incentives.

Mahathir asked if Malays were willing to become "slaves" in their own land by becoming drivers and servants to foreigners in the special economic zone.

Mahathir's previous allegations about corruption and inefficiency in the government have been made without any proof, but to some extent have fed on people's disenchantment with the government over rising prices and a seemingly lackluster economy.

Still, Abdullah has refrained from retaliating against Mahathir while vehemently denying the accusations.

In an interview earlier this year, Abdullah said he remains "energized to fulfill Malaysians' ambitions" and would silence his critics by ensuring that plans for economic and social development succeed.


M'sia Jealous Of S'pore Claim A Shallow View, Says FM Official

The claim by a Singapore member of parliament that Malaysia was jealous of Singapore's progress was a shallow view, the Dewan Rakyat was told Thursday.

Foreign Ministry parliamentary secretary Ahmad Shabery Cheek said the claim was unwarranted as Malaysia held to the "Prosper Thy Neighbour" concept in fostering friendly ties with its neighbours.

In line with the concept, Malaysia believed the success and prosperity enjoyed by any neighbouring country was also good for the country, he said.

"As a sovereign nation in a region where the countries are inter-twined and dependent on each other, Malaysia wants its neighbours to succeed and prosper as their prosperity can be shared through spin-offs," he said when replying to Datuk Dr Abdul Rahaman Ismail (BN-Gombak) during question time.

Dr Abdul Rahman had asked the extent of truth to the claim by a Singapore member of parliament that Malaysia was jealous of Singapore and what action the government took to address the claim.

Ahmad Shabery said Malaysia-Singapore bilateral relations were still "haunted" by unsettled issues and historical ties.

Nonetheless, Malaysia still pursued good neighbourliness with its neighbours by maintaining close and friendly bilateral ties with them, he said.

Replying to a supplementary question from the same member, Ahmad Shabery said the negative perception of some Asean countries on their neighbours would not jeopardise efforts to establish an Asean Common Market by 2015.

"We can establish the common market if we are conscious of our respective roles. We believe the reservations of some Asean countries on Singapore will not be an obstacle for us to have friendly ties with any country," he added.

Singapore: MM Lee honoured amid lively exchange

MINISTER Mentor Lee Kuan Yew received an honorary degree from the prestigious Australian National University (ANU) yesterday, amid a heated exchange with reporters.
Mr Lee, 83, who was Singapore's prime minister from independence until 1990, received an honorary doctorate in law and said he was no stranger to hostile receptions, as some 50 students and academics held up banners against him and chanted slogans outside the venue at the ANU's Canberra campus.
"If they didn't protest, nobody would know that I was given an honorary degree at ANU," he said. "Despite their protest, the ANU proceeded and I was not deterred from coming."
Having praised Australia's "exceptional growth" of the past 15 years during his acceptance speech, Mr Lee later told reporters critical of his no-nonsense style of governance: "It's not going to change me and I'm not going to change you." He added: "We're going to prosper, you're going to prosper. But if I allowed you to run my country, it will spiral downwards and hit rock bottom."
Asked about a remark he made in the 1980s that Australians were destined to become the "poor white trash of Asia", Mr Lee said it was apt for that era. "There are some words sometime said in the heat of an argument, which perhaps at that time was warranted." He explained that the country then had a "White Australia" and "Asian exclusion" policy. The laws have changed since then.
The award citation said ANU conferred the doctorate on the grounds of Mr Lee's service to developing Singapore, international statesmanship and friendship to Australia. But the decision had angered his critics, who charged that he had stifled democracy.
ANU arts-law student Ben Lyons said it was deeply offensive that the university was giving a doctorate of law to someone who used the justice system to repress dissent.
"There are a lot of students as well as academics who are quite angry about both the fact that we're giving Lee Kuan Yew a doctorate and the way it was conducted," Mr Lyons said.
Some law students argue the award may be invalid because the honorary degree committee did not discuss it before the approval by the ANU Council. Defending the move, ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Chubb said: "Ultimately, whatever process you follow, it's a decision of the council anyway."
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said earlier in the week that while there had been international concern about human rights issues in Singapore, Mr Lee was a "great regional leader". "The fact is, in the overall sense, Singapore has been a spectacular success," Mr Downer said.
Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said ANU had crassly used its degree system to honour an undeserving figure. "He eliminated opposition as effectively as he eliminated chewing gum," he told reporters.


It’s unreasonable!

A cabinet minister yesterday said it is unreasonable for non-Muslims who married under non-Islamic laws to submit themselves to syariah court jurisdiction.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok told theSun it was a worrying trend that the civil courts were unwilling to take up disputable cases like this.

He was referring to the Court of Appeal decision on March 13 asking R. Subashini, a Hindu, to seek recourse through the Syariah Appeal Court.

Dompok said: "I don’t think she should be expected to seek recourse in the syariah court. She could be Buddhist, Catholic, Sikh or profess any other religion. The principle is there (that she was married under non-Muslim rituals)."

The Court of Appeal had dismissed Subashini’s appeal to stop her Muslim-convert husband, Muhammad Shafi Saravanan Abdullah, from going to the syariah court to dissolve their civil marriage and to convert their young children to Islam.

Without referring to specific cases, Dompok said some judges had allowed their "personal sentiment" to cloud their judgment. "This is the impression that the people have now."

He said the long-term solution to resolve this disputable issue was to review the relevant laws to remove "grey areas" and to ensure justice and fairness to all parties.

He said even lawyers have different views over the matter, so the public should not be expected to have confidence in the system.

On the arguments that non-Muslims should not fear to seek justice in the syariah system, he said non-Muslims did not think they should appear before syariah courts set up to judge Muslims.

"We don’t want to pre-empt the decision of the syariah courts. But the principle that non-Muslims are subject to syariah laws is first and foremost the objection of non-Muslims. I think the founding fathers of this country never expected this to become a contentious issue," he said.

Dompok was one of 10 ministers who submitted a memorandum to the prime minister early last year, asking for a review of laws and the Constitution so they would not infringe the rights of minorities.

Except for Dompok, the others later withdrew the memorandum.

Asked if he still stood by the memorandum, he said: "To my mind, the memorandum was not at all provocative. As a matter of principle, I stand by it."

On Tuesday, when asked about the party’s stand on the Subashini case, MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said it had been voicing its concerns for the non-Muslim community in internal meetings.

He said its stand was that non-Muslim rights should be based on provisions in the Constitution.

In the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) called on the government and Parliament to take up and resolve issues involving the overlapping of civil and syariah court jurisdiction.

Referring to the Subashini case, he said it was perplexing that the Court of Appeal could ask the plaintiff, a Hindu, to seek remedy in the syariah court.

"Does this mean there is an extension of syariah laws to non-Muslims?" he queried in his debate on a Motion of Thanks for the Royal Address.

Karpal, who is DAP chairman, also asked Parliament to take up the matter, no matter how sensitive it was, and resolve it objectively. He said this was essential as other similar cases, like that involving the late S. Rayappan, had been on the increase of late.

Karpal Singh: Resolve Civil-Syariah overlapping issues

An opposition Dewan Rakyat member has called on the government to take up and resolve issues involving the overlapping of civil and Syariah court jurisdiction.

Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) said it was about time the matter be looked at and a solution found.

Referring to the case of R. Subashini, he said it was perplexing that the Court of Appeal could ask the plaintiff, who is a Hindu, to seek remedy in the Syariah Court in regards to the dissolution of their civil marriage and the conversion of their child.

"Does this mean there is an extension of Syariah laws to non-Muslims?" he queried in his debate on a Motion of Thanks on the Royal Address.

Karpal, who is DAP chairman, also said the time had come for Parliament to take up the matter and resolve it.

"This matter, though sensitive, must be discussed in this hall in an objective manner," he pleaded.

He added this was essential as other similar cases, like that involving the late S. Rayappan, have been on the increase of late.

Related Topic :

The coalition called Article 11: Myths and facts - Aliran

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28 March, 2007

Guantanamo Plea Leaves Questions

David Hicks' guilty plea may send him home to Australia to serve his terrorism sentence, but it also short-circuits a full test of the new U.S. military tribunal system, which will have to handle more complicated cases in the future.

Not even the prosecution said Hicks' guilty plea Monday night was a victory for the revised Guantanamo Bay military tribunals, set up after the Supreme Court last summer ruled the Pentagon's previous system was unconstitutional.

The 31-year-old Australian was the first detainee to face trial under the Military Commissions Act, which President Bush signed into law in October. But by pleading guilty at his arraignment to providing material support to terrorism, he deprived the tribunal system of a true road test: a trial.

Unless the Supreme Court steps in again and throws out the new tribunal system, officials plan to prosecute as many as 80 prisoners at the isolated base in southeast Cuba. Probably next in line are Omar Khadr, a Canadian who was 15 when he was captured after a firefight during which he allegedly killed a U.S. Army soldier with a grenade, and Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden. Unlike Hicks, admitted jihadists are among the 80 who could face the death penalty if convicted.

Lawyers for Hicks and the prosecution were meeting Tuesday to discuss the details of his plea before it is presented to the military judge who must approve it. If the plea is accepted, he could be sentenced this week and would then be sent to Australia, where the United States has agreed to let him serve his sentence.

Hicks, a Muslim convert, allegedly attended al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan, conducting surveillance on the British and American embassies as part of his training. But even by the military's account he was a small fish, a hapless holy warrior who had spent only two hours on the Taliban front line before it collapsed in November 2001 under attack by U.S. Special Forces and the Northern Alliance.

While fleeing, Hicks came across a group of Arab fighters who told him they were heading back to the front to fight to the death. Hicks declined to join them and was captured in December 2001 as he tried to escape into Pakistan, according to the military's charge sheet.

Hicks' father, Terry Hicks, said Tuesday he believed his son had pleaded guilty as part of a bargain with prosecutors that would get him out of the Guantanamo prison. "It's a way to get home, and he's told us he just wants to get home," Terry Hicks told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

While the guilty plea may have prevented a trial, Monday's hearing did foreshadow what's in store during upcoming trials. The scene in the small courtroom was at times tumultuous.

The judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, ordered two lawyers to leave the defense table after ruling they were not authorized to represent Hicks. One of the attorneys, Joshua Dratel, refused to sign an agreement to abide by tribunal rules, even those not yet established.

"These are the same problems that plagued the earlier commissions, that the process is ad hoc," Dratel told the black-robed judge before leaving the defense table.

Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch, an observer at the hearing, said the tribunal has failed to establish basic rules for defense lawyers.

"The antics at the Hicks hearing underline the illegitimacy of the Guantanamo tribunals," Daskal said.

Marine Lt. Col. Colby C. Vokey, who represents Khadr, said Hicks pleaded guilty "to escape the oppression of Guantanamo Bay and the fundamentally unfair military commissions system."

"He'll plead guilty and is willing to serve a sentence for his plea, as long as that means prison in his own country," Vokey told The Associated Press.

Air Force Col. Morris Davis, the chief prosecutor for the tribunals, said he was satisfied Monday's hearing ended in a guilty plea but added: "I don't look at it as a victory. I look at it as a first step."

Davis added that it was important to him that the tribunal system be fair.

Attorneys for Guantanamo prisoners insist the new system is still unfair, and have asked the Supreme Court to intervene again and guarantee prisoners have the right to challenge their confinement in U.S. courts, a principal known as habeas corpus that is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

"Hick's guilty plea should not be seen as legitimizing in any way an utterly illegal system of offshore penal colonies, abuse and 'trials' that violate fundamental due process rights," the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents hundreds of Guantanamo detainees, said in a statement Tuesday.

Australian attorney David McLeod, who met with Hicks a day before the hearing, said his client did not expect a fair trial, was depressed and had been considering the plea deal to end his five-year imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay.

His guilty plea was seen by attorneys as Hicks' only recourse to get out of Guantanamo.

"As one of my other clients said, he would rather plead guilty and be sent to jahanam -- hell -- than stay in Guantanamo," said Clive Stafford Smith, an attorney for several other Guantanamo detainees.

The Australian government won't comment on the sentence or plea bargain. But Don Rothwell, a professor of international law at Australian National University, said Hicks would be obligated to serve out the entirety of his sentence back home under Australia's treaty agreements with the United States.

"Australia cannot in any way seek to interfere with the original sentence unless there have been set parole agreements between the parties," he told the AP.

But if the U.S. Supreme Court again rules the military tribunals unconstitutional, Hicks might have grounds to seek to vacate his sentence, Rothwell said.

Related News :

Ruddock says Hicks unlikely to appeal sentence - ABC News

The Trials of David Hicks - The Age

Malaysia-Don't Equate Guantanamo With ISA

The Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba holding detainees of the United States government cannot be equated with Malaysia's Internal Security Act (ISA), the Dewan Rakyat was told Wednesday.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Foreign Ministry Ahmad Shabery Cheek said any assumption to that effect was totally unjust and would only smear the name and image of the Malaysian government.

"Issues related to the violation of human rights at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, which has been condemned by the world, are something unheard of in the context of the ISA here.

Ahmad Shabery said there have been demands from various human rights groups as well as the United Nations for the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba to be closed but no one has asked for the ISA to be abolished ??

On the two Malaysians, identified as Mohd Farik Amin and Mohammed Nazir Lep, held under detention by the US authorities in Guantanamo Bay, he said the Malaysian government has asked the US government to ensure that both get a fair trial.

"We will continue to monitor the developments in the matter and follow the trial of the two Malaysians," he said.

Mohd Farik and Mohammed Nazir are among the 14 foreign nationals who were transferred from secret detention locations of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US government to Guantanamo Bay last September on suspicion of involvement in the Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah movements.



Mr PM, indict Zulkipli!

Anti-Corruption Agency chief Zulkipli Mat Noor can no longer be in office holding on to his position as Director General. It is an embarrassment to the ACA! An institution entrusted with the highly demanding responsibility of checking and eradicating corruption cannot be headed by an individual whose character and integrity comes under a cloud of suspicion. We cannot tolerate this absurd situation. The Prime Minister must surely understand this.

Zulkipli was not merely accused of being corrupt by any ordinary citizen. It was not a wild allegation by any means. But in this case, the accusation came from a senior (now retired) ACA official, Ramli Abdul Manan, who had investigated the issue of corruption involving Zulkipli. According to Ramli, the former Sabah ACA director, he had studied this particular case and had indeed filed his report in July 2006 alerting the ACA, the then Inspector-General of Police and the Prime Minister regarding Zulkipli's corruption. Strangely, no action was taken to pursue this matter.

Besides this, it has been disclosed that several reports dating back to 1997 were lodged with the police by a woman alleging sexual molestation and behaviour unbecoming of an official, who strangely seems to be enjoying the confidence of the authorities.

In spite of these earlier reports, Zulkipli’s contract was extended three times since his appointment by former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 2001. (His current term ends on 31 March 2007.) We are now told that the police are investigating this case.

Notwithstanding this, further allegations of corruption have emerged with Dr Jeffrey Kitingan lodging a 24-page police report implicating Zulkipli with corruption.

What is really worrying Malaysians is that Zulkipli continues to be on duty and in service as Director General of the ACA. There is this real fear that, because of his top position, he has access to ACA files and information pertaining to his case. It is legitimate to wonder whether there is a possibility that evidence can be tampered with or witnesses threatened. This is something that cannot be easily dismissed or overlooked.

Zulkipli’s position in the ACA is tarnishing the image of the ACA. People are losing their confidence in the ACA as a body truly dedicated to wiping out corruption. When citizens no longer view the head of this very important agency as a man of impeccable character, then the entire outfit suffers. Its credibility is shattered and the very purpose of setting up the ACA is rightly questioned. We cannot have a person remaining in such a crucial office if his integrity has been called into question or if there is the slightest hint of irregularities.

Aliran is of the view that Zulkipli should be indicted. Indicting an officer while the case is being investigated is part of the disciplinary process. When an officer is cleared, he can be reinstated without suffering any loss in salary or seniority to his rank. Why should it be different for Zulkipli, Mr PM?

P Ramakrishnan


28 March 2007


27 March, 2007

Sudanese women to be stoned for adultery

Two Sudanese women have been sentenced to death by stoning for adultery after a trial in which they had no lawyer and which used Arabic, not their first language, the rights group Amnesty International said.

Sadia Idriss Fadul was sentenced on February 13 and Amouna Abdallah Daldoum on March 6 and their sentences could be carried out at any time, the London-based group said in a statement released late on Monday.

North Sudan implements Islamic sharia law.

"The women had no lawyer during their trial and were not able to defend themselves, as their first languages are those of their ethnic groups," Amnesty said.

Both women are from non-Arab tribes but the proceedings were in Arabic and no interpreter was provided, Amnesty said. Their trial took place in central Al Gezira state.

"One of the women, Sadia Idriss Fadul, has one of her children with her in prison," Amnesty said.

Faysal el-Bagir, a Sudanese human rights activist, said sentences of death by stoning were rare, "but we have heard that in this area there have been other such judgments."

The male accused in Fadul's case was let off because there was not enough evidence against him. Witnesses are usually required to gain a conviction and forensic tests are not normally used in such cases.

Under Sudan's penal code, anyone who is married and has sex outside wedlock shall be punished by execution by stoning. If they are unmarried, they are lashed, Amnesty said.

El-Bagir said that in another case in Sudan's western Darfur region about two years ago, a woman sentenced to death by stoning had her punishment reduced to lashing after a public campaign by rights activists.

Amnesty opposes all forms of capital punishment.

Sudan's justice ministry was unavailable for comment.

(from : Washington Post)

Two Darfuri Women Sentenced to Death by Stoning for Adultery, Male Partners Spared

Khartoum, Sudan - Two ethnic African women from Darfur have been sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery, while their male partners escaped punishment, a human rights activist said Thursday.

Faisal al-Bagir of the Khartoum-based Sudan Organization Against Torture said the women were tried separately in the criminal court in the town of Azaze in the central state of Al Jazirah, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

The women, identified as Saadiyah al-Fadel and Umounah Daldoum from the ethnic African Tama tribe in Darfur, were part of tribal folk working as farm laborers in the Gezira Scheme, a farming area in central Sudan.

Al-Bagir said the women were moved after trial to the prison in the city of Wad Medani, the capital of Al Jazirah. Al-Fadel, who was pronounced guilty of adultery and sentenced on April 13, is together in prison with her 18-month-old daughter, Al-Bagir said.

"Saadiyah was deserted by her husband for some time and she confessed before the court that she had got pregnant with this child from a sexual relationship with another man she had named," Bagir said.

The man was brought to the court and after he publicly dissociated himself from the act, was acquitted for lack of evidence, Bagir said. The other woman, Daldoum, had also confessed to adultery and was sentenced March 6.

Death by stoning is a punishment stipulated by the Islamic Sharia law which is observed by the Arab-dominated Sudanese authorities.

Al-Bagir branded the women's trial as unfair. "There were no defense lawyers and the trial proceedings were in Arabic, a language the defendants do not understand," he said.

He said that human rights groups were worried about the baby daughter in prison and also about the conditions the two women are enduring while waiting for their sentence to be carried out. A number of independent lawyers have submitted an appeal to a higher court in the case, al-Bagir said, but gave no details.

Gezira Scheme is one of the world's largest farming projects, dating back to the British in 1925 when a network of canals and ditches 4,300 kilometers long (2,700 miles) were dug to distribute water to tenant farms in the area's 8,800 square kilometers (3,400 sq. miles) lying between the Blue and White Nile Rivers. The region's main crop is cotto

- Associated Press

Call To Action: Women To Be Stoned In Sudan

Take effective action.

1. Write a message to the Parliament of Sudan. Express disapproval with the decision and encourage the Sudan to abide by international norms. Write whatever you feel will spare the life of the women. Heartfelt letters go further than form letters as we learned in our Afghan Government letter writing campaign, where a heartfelt letter by one of our readers prompted the Government of Afghanistan to reply and assure the safety of one of the persecuted women.

2. Contact the International Commission of Jurists. They have the expertise, resources, and legal firepower to persuade the government of the Sudan. This is demonstrable by their impeccable letter to the Government of Nigeria when that nation was going to stone a woman. It is obvious that the Commission is going to have to be pressured into taking action. That is all Western citizens can do at the moment, especially with a chaotic state like Sudan: pressure one of their elite institutions to make a persuasive argument.

3. Donate to Amnesty International.

4. Muslims and non-Muslims who want to understand how to construct an anti-stoning argument rooted in Islamic law should read this primer I wrote. I want to reiterate that I personally believe that this kind of theoretical analysis is largely an exercise in metaphysics. There is no purely "Islamic" state today, nor will there ever be one. So talking about theory of Islamic Law is largely useless, but it makes some people happy:

Stoning, or rajam, is a punishment in Islamic Law, meted out to adulterers. Under orthodox law, a person who engages in pre-marital sex is to be lashed 100 times while a person who engages in illicit sex outside of marriage is to be stoned to death. The verse which proscribes punishment for sex crimes in Islam is verse 2 of the 24th Chapter:

The woman and the man guilty of ZINA - flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment.

Immediately we see that there is no reference to stoning. That is because the punishment for stoning to death does not exist in the Quran. It comes in via the hadith. That hadith is deemed to have abrogated (sort of like veto) the Quran. For now I am not going to get into the discussion of abrogation or the merits of that particular hadith. That is for another day. My point was simply to show that the Quran does not make stoning a punishment. All I really want to demonstrate right now is the following:

The Arabic word “Zaniy” does not, in any way, relate to the marital status of the perpetrator. A married person guilty of the crime would be termed a “Zaniy”, as much as an unmarried person. In view of this fact, the Qur’anic law for a person guilty of the crime should be subjected to the punishment of one-hundred flogs, irrespective of his marital status. Any distinction made on the basis of the marital status of the perpetrator would, therefore, clearly be against the directive of the Qur’an.

In other words, there are persuasive reasons for Muslims to say to Iran — or any other party who engaged in stoning — that to do so goes against the Quran. I admit that this is the minority position in Islamic Law historically. However, our goal is to make it the majority position. The fact that it is the minority position should not detract us from making the argument that under Islamic Law, the most that Iran can punish these women is 100 lashings and therefore there should not be a stoning.

Now, immediately the question arises: would not 100 lashes just as equally kill a woman? The answer is it would almost definitely kill a woman. The other question that arises is this: replacing stoning with flogging still does not address the culture of patriarchy and the jurisprudence of oppression being practiced in Muslim countries. My answer is that indeed, it does not resolve any of those things. So then why even bother making this argument? Very simple.

Under a majority view in Islamic Law — ah, now we are in the majority — the Islamic punishments are a “ceiling” and not a “floor” of the maximum penalty. In other words, jurists — even orthodox jurists — accept that when you are going to flog someone for fornication you cannot flog them more than 100 times. Thus, our first goal, as reformists, should be to try to lower the “ceiling” from stoning adulterers/lashing fornicators to 100 lashes for both (since that is more consistent with the Quran).

In other words, first we have to collapse the distinction between pre-marital sex and extra-marital sex. Then we have to argue that the most either can be punished is 100 lashes, as the majority concurs. Then, we will take we have to really get our reformist asses active, and say, as does the Quran in Surat ul Burooj (Chapter of the Castles in the Stars), “God is the oft-forgiving and most merciful” to try and lower the number of lashes from 100 to maybe 40 (which can be survived), to maybe less than that, and eventually, to zero. So, if you want to make stoning go away, this is the argument you need to use.

How successful you are will depend on how persuasively you can demonstrate that critical first step: namely, a) that the adulterer/fornicator distinction does not exist in the Quran and b) the hadith about stoning does not trump verse 24:2 (where no stoning is mention). Step ‘a’ is easier because it is a question of language. Step ‘b’ is harder - much harder - because it requires for you to demonstrate that the hadith are not a primary source of law (which flies in the face of about 900 years of majority thinking in Islamic Law). With respect to step ‘b’ you should not, however, lose heart.

Over time I will show all the numerous jurists who historically did not consider the hadith a primary source of law that could therefore veto the Quran. I will also show that if you look just at contemporary Islamic Jurisprudence the ‘minority’ is at least about 40% (and rapidly growing and soon to become the majority). Since some of you will one day become Muslim Jurists (note that non-Muslims can be Islamic Jurists too) these lessons will be instructive. I will also set forth a number of different methodological tools that jurists today are using in the area of hadith (some will be completely challenge Islamic legal history; some, however, emerge right from it).

In the long term, there is no reason to say that when it comes to stoning Islamic Law cannot be changed. It can be. The tools are there. Only the knowledge is lacking. We will remedy that over time.

By Ali Eteraz

Related reference :
Stoning - Wikipedia

Stoning to Death in Islam - Wikipedia


26 March, 2007

Spotted: shocks coming our way

Singapore has devised an early-warning system that could help detect looming terror attacks and financial crises. Michael Sheridan , Sunday Times (UK).reports

BRITISH researchers are working with Singapore on the world’s most advanced computer system to detect security threats and foil terrorist plots.

The model being developed by some of the finest computer brains could become the standard for governments and big companies anxious to identify threats of all kinds and take action to counter them.

It uses the power of the internet to help analysts sort through millions of pieces of data and collaborate across different bureaucracies, challenging traditional methods of risk assessment.

Singapore’s leaders fear that their prosperous, but tiny, city-state of 4m people is vulnerable. They decided to act after observing the September 11 attacks, the Bali bombings, the outbreaks of Sars and bird flu and the 2004 Asian tsunami. So they scoured the planet for the sharpest minds to help.

Last week they lifted a veil of secrecy around the system at a conference of intelligence and technology experts, who watched a demonstration of how the system could identify one suspicious ship among the 1,000 vessels that pass every day through the straits south of Singapore.

The aim is to detect what experts call “weak signals” — the sort of detail missed by security services who failed to notice Al-Qaeda terrorists training to fly planes or British Muslims buying chemicals that could be used to make explosives.

“I’m hoping Singapore could be an incubator for this,” said John Poindexter, who in the 1980s was national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan and is now a technology consultant.

“When I was in the White House I was dismayed at the lack of a systematic and methodological approach to handling information. This gives us the tools for collaboration so that you can bring in diverse opinions and diverse data. Diversity is really, really important,” he said.

Poindexter was one of a core group assembled by the head of Singapore’s civil service, Peter Ho, to create the system.

They brought in Dave Snowden, regarded as a leading thinker in applying complexity theory to management science, as principal consultant.

For straitlaced Singapore, the bearded, irreverent Snowden, who heads a company called Cognitive Edge, cuts an unusual figure.

“Frankly, he was quite incomprehensible,” said Ho, recalling their first discussion. “Nevertheless, I dimly glimpsed through the cloud of academic jargon and the Welsh accent something that I sensed was important.

“We were operating in complex and chaotic domains where the first to discern patterns out of chaos would have a competitive advantage,” said Ho.

The Singaporeans also realised that scenario planning — still the conventional British government method for rehearsing for crises — was out of date.

Their response is a system that looks for wild cards, chance and anomalous behaviour to detect the unpredictable. It scans hundreds of databases to “connect the dots”.

Last week, Snowden enthralled his audience of bureaucrats and spooks with his explanation of how the system uses chaos theory to analyse threats at a time when terrorists themselves are skilled users of technology.

Singapore calls the system Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning. Rupert Lewis, who heads the British government’s own programme inside the Department of Trade and Industry, admitted that the main problem with horizon scanning is its name, which puts people off. But he said that Uni-lever, British Gas and the CBI are already using the technology, which also has applications for financial markets. Other companies examining the programme include Lehman Brothers, Shell, BP, Standard Chartered, Lloyds TSB, Rio Tinto and Price Waterhouse Coopers, said Lewis.

The Singapore model unveiled last week employs techniques similar to those used in derivatives trading to accumulate data and predict outcomes.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the jargon, the concept has ignited enthusiasm among some of the smartest brains in the cyber-elite.

Jaron Lanier, the California computer scientist famous for coining the term “virtual reality”, said the Singapore system seemed the most mathematically sophisticated and carefully thought-out of its kind.

Lanier, who works with Second Life, the hugely popular virtual world website, said information technology had transformed security threats. “In commerce, we don’t have to know where to focus, we can simply enjoy the spectacle of multitudes of entrepreneurs placing bets all over the place,” he said. “When it comes to security, however, we need to be better at guessing than the ‘entrepreneurs’.”

Oxford Analytica, the consultancy, is already using its global content to participate in the programme with the Singapore government.

“We are hoping to build more business on it,” said executive director Michael Bruce, who was showing off Oxford Analytica’s assessments of a series of grim scenarios — from war with Iran to the collapse of Pakistan.

A Singapore government background document said “transnational terrorism, financial shocks and supply-chain fragility” made it all the more urgent to break conventional ways of thinking. Many jihad-ists dominate the ‘battle space’ of the internet and use it for purposes such as the training, recruiting, funding, intelligence gathering, planning and execution of their attacks,” it said. “Without anticipating the nature of the threats they face, governments and policymakers cannot react astutely,” it warned.

Singapore is committing funds to open an experimentation centre in August to work with industry partners like Hewlett Packard and IBM, foreign government agencies and universities.

For his part, Poindexter said he wants to see the American government adopt the system. “You need high-level vision,” said Poindexter, “because it’s not just the risks — it’s the opportunities, too.”