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Indonesia is deeply concerned with the situation of Rohingya Muslims

In the image above: (R) Ms. Esti Andayani – The Honorable Ambassador of Indonesia to Norway with Hatef Mokhtar Editor in Chief The Oslo Times (L)

Honorable Ambassador of Indonesia to Norway, ‘The Oslo Times’ welcomes you to an exclusive interview with its Chief Editor and Editorial Board panel.

 

It is indeed a privilege to be with you and exchange views with you on a range of important global issues.

 

TOT: To start with we shall start with Indonesia-Norway ties. Not long ago, your predecessor, Ambassador Retno Marsudi said that, “Indonesia and Norway have had a very intensive relationship in the last couple of years. What makes this relationship to appear so busy and fruitful, and what should we anticipate in the future?” We would like you to dilate on this in detail so as to enlighten our readers worldwide?

 

Ms. Esti Andayani: The long standing bond of friendship and bilateral cooperation between the two countries have always been good and grown stronger. Several instruments of cooperation were signed during the tenure of Ambassador Retno Marsudi in Oslo. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited Norway twice in 2006 and 2010 during his tenure. In reciprocal, the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg made a state visit to Indonesia in 2007.

The bilateral relations between Indonesia and Norway have been strengthened and enhanced following the signing of Dynamic Partnership (November 2010) which is not only on the framework of bilateral cooperation but also multilateral dimension.  Most of the bilateral issues are interlinked with multilateral issues such as human rights, climate change and environment, energy, security, global health, MDGs. To this end, Indonesia and Norway enjoy continuous close cooperation on Dialogue on Human Rights; cooperation in REDD+ (Reductions of Emission from Deforestation and forest Degradation); Security Policy Consultation; Foreign Policy and Global Health; MDG 4 and 5 and other international issues.

Whereas in the areas of economic cooperation, the ongoing negotiations on Indonesia – EFTA Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IE-CEPA) are running smoothly where up to now five rounds of negotiations have taken place. The bilateral relations focus also on increasing trade and investment and energy security. With rapid changes in global situation, these issues would be fundamental for future cooperation.

 

 

 

TOT: What are the key strategic areas where Indonesia and Norway can function together as successful partners and cooperate together for the development and improvement of existing bilateral ties with each other? While answering this question we would like you to speak also on the areas that can provide a boost to Indonesia’s economic prospect vis a vis Norway?

Ms. Esti Andayani: The strategic area of cooperation between Indonesia – Norway is the REDD+ cooperation. This is one of core bilateral issues between Indonesia and Norway, which has been highlighted during the meeting between President of the Republic of Indonesia and Prime Minister of Norway, in the margins of Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, 26 March 2012. Indonesia and Norway Partnership on REDD+ cooperation should serve as a model of bilateral cooperation in the multilateral dimension. Indonesia promotes that kind of partnership in the sidelines event of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD)/Rio+20, 20-22 June 2012.

 

Besides the cooperation in the field of environment, there are more sectors that are potential to be enhanced such as energy, maritime, fisheries and infrastructures. Indonesia is now become more attractive for foreign investors due to its enhanced investment climate and recent upgrading  of Indonesia’s investment grade by two global and well-known rating agencies, ‘’the Fitch’’ and ‘’Standard and Poor’’. The Indonesian fundamental economy remains strong, showing resilience growth coupled with low government debt and prudent policy. This is a promising and saleable factor in the middle of increasing concerned on the prospect of global economy.  Therefore, it is a high time for Norway and Indonesia to improve their trade and investment activities.

 

As you might already be aware of, that in 2011, the bilateral trade volume reached                USD 309.5 million. This number is still considered small compared to the potentials of the two countries that still can be explored by setting target and focus on particular commodities or sectors. I warm-heartedly welcome Norway’s decision to reopen the office of Innovation Norway in Jakarta in 2012.  I expect that Innovation Norway could not only encourage Norway’s business sectors to expand their cooperation with Indonesia’s counterparts but also acts as a matchmaking agent for bridging business opportunities between big companies and small medium enterprises for both countries.

 

 

 

TOT: Now, expanding our vista here, let us come to what your Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono said on the 19th of July – as reported in almost all the Indonesian newspapers and also aired by the BBC — Indonesia has been selected to host the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management which will operate starting this year. “The heads of state/government of ASEAN member countries have agreed that the AHA Centre should be set up in Indonesia this year” …We would like to have your concise and precise response and views on this statement by your minister?

 

Ms. Esti Andayani: According to Synthesis Report on Ten ASEAN Countries Disaster Risk Assessment (December 2010), the region reported 1,211 occurrences of disasters with over 414,900 casualties over the last 40 years (1970-2009). These numbers could be higher as there were also unreported cases. Most of ASEAN countries, including Indonesia, are prone to disasters. Disasters affect on ASEAN countries’ economies, and the lives of millions of people in the region.

In the light of constant disasters and humanitarian situations in the region, ASEAN agreed on a legally binding pact to establish national and regional structures to deal with disasters, and endorsed the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) in July 2005, which mandated the establishment of AHA Center. The center is the hub for disaster information, coordination of relief mobilization, coordination of joint emergency response, administration coordination, and disaster research and study. In fact, AHA Center has started its operation in June 2011.

Having experienced the biggest disaster in the 2004 with the Aceh’s tsunami, Indonesia has learned about disaster management and made it a government priority by establishing the National Agency for Disaster Management and its regional offices through the Act No. 24/2007 on Disaster Management. Many countries have recognized and also learned from our experiences and successes in dealing with disaster management and disaster risk reduction.

Given the above facts, I can reaffirm Indonesia remains committed to actively participate in enhancing international cooperation in disaster management and humanitarian situations. Those facts also show that we are more prepared and ready with the infrastructure and human resources to host the AHA Center. Indonesia welcomes cooperation in the field of disaster management at all levels: bilateral, regional, and multilateral. Although we understand that cooperation among the ASEAN member states and other states or parties can be in form of bilateral cooperation, such cooperation should not overshadow ASEAN cooperation, internally or with a third party, in the regional level through AHA Center.

TOT: Your country has had a traditional history of ties with Australia and this long range of bilateral relationship and cooperation was highlighted by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his speech on a seminar held on Australian-Indonesian ties sometime back (Reported by the press and electronic media of both the countries and also available on Youtube on the Internet). Mr. Rudd also spoke on both the countries bonding with ASEAN member states and also on the scope of further cementing of ties between your country and his. Do explain this to us in detail for the benefit of our readers?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Yes, I remembered his speech very well. Indeed, Indonesia and Australia has a long history of friendship, and what used to be a love-hate relationship is now a mutual love for each other. I myself see that the care and attention given by Australia and the people of Australia after the Bali Bombing in 2002, and later at the event of tsunami in 2004 as a turning point, and from there on our relationship never looks back.

Australia is our biggest neighbor, not only in term of territory but also cooperation. Our cooperation ranges from political, to economic, development, security, education, health, and you name it.  We are now partners, we benefit from each other, and one’s problem or suffering is also of the other’s interest. Therefore it is important for us to maintain this good relationship.

And that is also the reason we support and welcome further cooperation with Australia through ASEAN. Australia is also one of ASEAN’s biggest neighbor, and having always supporting ASEAN, I think involving Australia as ASEAN’s dialogue partner was the correct path. Australia has also been included in East Asia Summit since the very beginning in 2005. In 2010, the ASEAN-Australia Summit was held in Hanoi, and it highlighted ASEAN – Australia relations and cooperation, including in trade, in which the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) entered into force in January 2010.  But not only in economy, on that summit we also underlined cooperation in ASEAN’s other pillars, that is in political-security cooperation, and socio-cultural, which I think is good for both parties.

TOT: It is also a known fac

t that both Norway and Indonesia are energy sufficient and oil producing nations, even though the former after being an observer and the latter having left the OPEC in 2008, on the grounds of becoming a net importer. Delve on this and tell us as to how you will assess the possibilities of further joint cooperation between the two countries and also tell us about what has been done and achieved so far?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Although Indonesia is no longer member of OPEC, it does not mean that we do not have anymore energy potential. Indonesia is one of the fastest growing country in the world and our interest now is more to fulfill domestic needs. We still have many unexplored potentials and we see that Norway has technical experience and capability to help us in exploring our energy potentials.

 

Energy cooperation between Indonesia and Norway in the form of bilateral consultation on energy has been regularly conducted following the signing of MoU between the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Indonesia and the Ministry of Industry and Energy of the Kingdom of Norway Concerning Cooperation in the Energy Field in Jakarta, 1995.  In the last bilateral energy consultation held in Yogyakarta, 6-7 October 2011, Indonesia and Norway were committed to implementing concrete cooperation in the future.

 

Indonesia is highly interested in further promoting bilateral cooperation in renewable energy to support its green economy policy, including to materialize concrete cooperation in renewable energy sector. This sector is believed to become the priority of future cooperation among others in hydropower, geothermal dan off-shore wind.

 

I would like to share you an example of one finished projects, which is the Baron Technopark Project in Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta funded by Norwegian Development Cooperation           (NOK 6.5 million, equivalent to US$ 1 million). This project is a prototype of new and renewable energy (solar, wind and geothermal) which not only is purposed for research and development of renewable energy, but also as a center of education and social activity in the energy sector for the general public. Norway also invest in mini hydropower in Manipi, South Sulawesi valued at USD 22 million and is currently investing in other hydropower projects.

 

Besides renewable energy, there is also a cooperation on oil and gas sector. For your information, Statoil has operated in Indonesia since 2007 and currently has been appointed as operator in Karama and Kuma block in Makassar Strait and six other locations in eastern part of Indonesia.

TOT: The President of your country, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said on the 22nd of this month that Indonesia will never leave ASEAN despite its growing role in the Group of 20 rich and developing nations (G20). Being an important member of ASEAN and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), could you explain the position of Indonesia in promoting the significance of your country and also highlight the cause and vision of its being in the two groupings?

 

Ms. Esti Andayani: What I can share with you is that ASEAN is our root. We grow up together, as family. And just like members of family could live or work elsewhere, they will always come home. That is what ASEAN to us. Indonesia is one of ASEAN’s founding fathers, and also one that initiated that there should be an ASEAN Community. Indonesia also has its role in envisioning the ASEAN Vision 2020. Not only that ASEAN States grow together and ASEAN nurtures us, but we also nurtured ASEAN, making it big and strong as it is today. And I believe that it will getting stronger.

 

In terms of statistics, ASEAN covers an area of 4.46 million km2, with a population of approximately 600 million people, which is about 8.8% of the world’s population. That is a big number, not only in terms of human resources but also potential market. Most of us have similar state of development and it is growing rapidly much to the world’s envy. For ASEAN, being united provides better chances in growing than if we are on our separate ways. And Indonesia wants to keep it that way.

As with APEC, all members of ASEAN are also the member of APEC. ASEAN states do not leave their root in APEC, and we walk together. Every decision taken should be beneficial for all ASEAN members, not only for one. Together we are stronger, and having more bargaining power, which we hope in the future are comparable with super powers such as China and the US at the APEC Forum.  Indonesia wants to be and is committed to be the driving force for that to happen.

We are proud of our active role in the G20. It really signifies the recognition of our growing economy and our potentials to grow even further and faster. But then again, being in the ASEAN is also one of the reasons we got so far.  I think Indonesia’s admission to the G20 will not only strengthen Indonesia’s role and position in the world, but will be beneficial for ASEAN as well, as we can say that being the only ASEAN country in G20, Indonesia represents the region in the forum.

TOT: Now, Honourable Ambassador, highlight and explain to us the significance of being a country with the largest Muslim population in the world and tell us this too – for the benefit of our readers worldwide — about your country’s take on human rights violations which are being committed in Myanmar/Burma by the Rakhine Buddhists against the Rohingya Muslim community? Being the world’s largest Muslim nation in terms of population what do you think about the genocide being carried out under the very nose of the Burmese military junta as well as in front of Nobel Peace Winner Aung San Suu Kyi?

Ms. Esti Andayani: We are deeply concerned with the recent situation in Rakhine, Myanmar. We understand that that kind of situation could happen everywhere in a world of multi-ethnic society. Without more detailed information, I would not engage myself for further comments. However, I believe that the Indonesian government will take any necessary measures through various mechanisms in settling the issue, including bilateral, regional ASEAN, OIC and the UN.

 

TOT: Our next question is a continuation of the previous one. Give us your views on the recent press and electronic media reports (Newspapers and television channels of India, Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh and also published prominently by The Oslo Times a few days ago) some of the escapees/ survivors of the Rohingya Muslim community were saved by the Indonesian Navy. The Rohingyas were left as stranded people right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Did your country do something or intends to do something positive to take an account of this fleeing of a people belonging to a segregated and downtrodden community of Myanmar and yet without doubt happen to be, beyond the shadow of a doubt, its citizens too? Give us your answer in a nutshell?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Indonesia always withholds its national law in dealing with refugees and asylum seekers with respect to various ratified International Human Rights Conventions, in cooperation with the UNHCR.

Indonesia treats every illegal migrant including refugees and asylum seekers equally regardless of their nationalities, including the Rohingyas. Although there are a number of Rohingyas refugees to Indonesia, their numbers are insignificant compare to those coming to Malaysia.

Indonesia is not a party of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees; therefore it is the duty of the UNHCR to independently determine the status of illegal migrants. The Government of Indonesia basically supports the decisions of the UNHCR and promotes durable solutions through 3 alternatives i.e. voluntary repatriation, resettlement in third country, and local settlement in Indonesia.

 

TOT: Now, respected Ambassador, coming to your ties with Australia, do share your views on the growing refugee crisis which has been fueled by the Australian immigration policy, in which human traffickers are taking advantage to provide asylum to people fleeing your country to Australia by illegal methods?  If your country has been affected gravely by this activity then what is it doing to cope with it and curb it? Also, what has been the Australian response and cooperation with the authorities of your country in this regard?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Indonesia notes the increasing numbers of refugees from Middle East countries (Afghanistan and Iran) and from neighboring countries (Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka).  The numbers of illegal migrants heading for Australia via Indonesia has multiplied since 2008 and this has become the concern of the Indonesian Government. In dealing with this matter, Indonesia and Australia has established cooperation by signing the Lombok Treaty in 2006.

At regional level, the Bali Process is a regional forum co-chaired by Indonesia and Australia. This forum discusses the solution for people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational organized crimes in the region. The activities within the Bali Process are technical, voluntary and non-binding with the focus on capacity building.

In recent development, the members of Bali Process agreed to continue the cooperation through Regional Cooperation Framework (RCF) which in operational level is conducted by establishing the Regional Support Office (RSO) in Bangkok.

TOT: Now coming to the human rights situation in the West Papua it is important to mention the latest Amnesty International report on Indonesia which says that there is a critical situation in West Papua– a humanitarian crisis – which needs to be addressed and resolved at the earliest possible. We shall be delighted to have your thoughts on this situation in West Papua and the problems which are threatening to build up more and more with each passing day?

 

Ms. Esti Andayani: First of all, I would like to make sure that we refer to the same definition when we address West Papua. Currently, we have two provinces in Indonesian Papua, namely the Papua and the West Papua. We recognized that there are some incidents of violence happened recently in Papua and West Papua. I would like to ensure you that the incident and the issue of Papua are not issues of sovereignty, but rather a political, social, justice and welfare issue.  There is no such humanitarian crisis as reported by the Amnesty International.

Since 2005, the Indonesian government has promoted welfare and justice approaches in developing Papua and West Papua. Both provinces have received special autonomy, including a policy allowing them to accelerate development in a special budget allocation. Furthermore, the implementation of the master plan for accelerating and expanding the development of Indonesia’s economy (MP3EI) has made the region, along with Moluccas, a potential territory in the economic development strategies with concrete project, budget and agenda.  The Indonesian government has also established a Special Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B), to help resolve development problems that might arise. From political side, the government has actively engaged in dialogues with various stakeholders in the region to deal with various problems.

To further accelerates the improvement of human capacity in both Provinces, the Indonesian Government implements several affirmative actions, such as quota for education i.e. in police forces and the position of ‘’putra daerah’’ (people of local ethnicities) in the local government. Meanwhile, the government also continues to intensify efforts to build and promote a more conducive situation in both Provinces, among others, by making various efforts to increase welfare, law enforcement and respect for human rights and continues to develop a more democratic political life.

The fundamental policy of the Indonesian Government concerning Papua and West Papua has undergone a significant transformation, altering the security approach applied previously into prosperity and justice approach, within the context of Indonesian territorial integrity. The implementation of special autonomy has shifted sweeping powers and authority from Jakarta to Papua and West Papua allowing them to regulate and manage based on their own interests. However, the acceleration of economic and social development is still a challenge ahead. This is due to the least developed infrastructure and public services caused by geographical aspects as well as different traditional legal systems. Therefore, the focus of the Government is to deal with these challenges with various measures.

TOT: Now, let us inform you that quite recently The Oslo Times met with Benny Wenda, a representative of West Papua movement in Oslo — who was invited to the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2012. Benny Wenda explained to us about the situation in West Papua and the discrimination which Papuans face in Indonesia especially at the hands of the Indonesian Army. Please clarify on this?

Ms. Esti Andayani: As I have mentioned before, the Government has altered the security approach applied previously into prosperity and justice approach. Since then, the Government has pulled out military units that were no longer necessary in Papua and West Papua, and kept only a small number of units that are essentials to maintain security and protect the people. Nowadays, the police have more roles in maintaining order. The various incidents happened in Papua and West Papua recently were more of criminal acts, which were handled in accordance to Indonesian laws and regulations.

The people of Papua and West Papua have never been discriminated. They are even given special treatment to sit in various positions within the local government that only they can withhold, which people of other ethnicities are not entitled.

TOT: Reverend Ambassador, Indonesia, as is known to the world is a country which, despite being the world’s largest Muslim nation in terms of population, is resilient and tolerant to the people belonging to all faiths, cultures and historical genesis. It is indeed highly appreciable. We would like you to tell us on the struggle going on against extremism in the world and highlight Indonesia’s stand and efforts directed against fundamentalism of all kinds, extremism and fanaticism as well as militancy. Our question assumes more relevance as it is clearly visible that since some time in the past extremism and militancy are threatening the stability of your own country?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Indeed Indonesia is the country with largest Moslem population in the world, but Indonesia is not a Moslem country. We respect differences and hold the values of tolerance. Differences indeed exist. The emergence of groups with extreme-right views has posed a challenge to Indonesia, such as acts of terrorism and militancy. Globally, this kind of trends also emerges in other democratic countries.  I believe you share the same opinion, that in several Western countries, anti-immigrant and anti-Islam groups are in the political mainstream, and they have positions within the Parliament which could be influential. In comparison, such groups and activities are not recognized in the political mainstream in Indonesia.

The problems arise from the practice of religions you hear here in Norway and many other Western countries are actually quite minor. Unfortunately, international community is not very well informed about religious harmony exists in Indonesia. Regrettably the minor scaled problems receive more media coverage, nationally and internationally, as if the voice of that minority affected represents the voice of the majority.

Through you, I expect that the media would be able to deliver a more balanced coverage so that the public in the country and abroad would have comprehensive and contextual understanding about religious life in Indonesia.  At the same time, I do hope that the majority in Indonesia, who have been silent all along, would express their views and opinions to better represent the voice of Indonesia.

Meanwhile, in combating terrorism, extremism, and militancy, the Indonesian Government, since the 2002 Bali Bombing and 9/11 terrorist attack in New York, has engaged actively in many cooperation to improve capacity building in countering terrorism. We are now even considered as a role model for other countries in combating terrorism.

TOT: After having tackled the sensitive yet most significant problem of recent developments in the world comity of nations – threats of extremism and unbridled militancy – we would like to have your impressions and opinion on the role Indonesia has played so far in terms of promoting democracy, freedom of speech and human rights on the regional as well as on the international level?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Indonesia has always put forward constructive efforts in the cooperation of promoting and protecting human rights, through various dialogues and international cooperation. Indonesia has a role in bridging different views and positions regarding human rights which are often vary between the developed countries and the developing countries. Indonesia, on one hand, supports the efforts to promote civil and political rights carried out by developed countries while on the other hand, continues to promote economic, social and cultural rights as well as the right to development which are the priorities of developing countries.

At the regional level, Indonesia puts forward the cooperation through ASEAN and supports the democratization process of the ASEAN member countries in accordance with the principle of non-interference. At the global level, this commitment is reflected by initiating the Bali Democracy Forum which convenes annually since 2008.

Democracy is a home-grown process, emerged from within the community in each country, and is a process that cannot be imposed by others. That is why Indonesia is of the view that democracy should deliver, meaning that it has to be accompanied by development which will be beneficial for the people’s welfare.

I wish to reiterate that democracy is reflected by the freedom of expression, which in Indonesia is guaranteed by Constitution and related laws. Bearing this, the Indonesian people are aware that the freedom of expression is not absolute as it cannot infringe the rights of others.  We, Indonesians, adhere tolerance and rule of law and putting the principles into practice when we exercise the right to freedom of expression.

 

 

In the image above: US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama (L) meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife Ani Yudhoyono (R) at the State Palace Complex Istana Merdeka in Jakarta Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

TOT: In a lighter vein Reverend Ambassador, you too must be quite informed and aware like most of our readers are about present US President Barack Hussain Obama’s growing up in Indonesia especially as an adolescent and a youth. Thus Obama has a bond with your motherland. Anything remarkable that you can share with us in this regard?

Ms. Esti Andayani: President Obama lived in Indonesia only for four years during his early childhood. However, he is still bounded with Indonesia and its people. He knows full well about Indonesia, its culture, values, motto, and he even could still speak Indonesian. All of these were well reflected within his lecture before the students of the University of Indonesia.

In that lecture, he compared the values of the United States and the values of Indonesia that turned out to have a lot of similarities.  In the United States, E pluribus unum — out of many, one – has similar meaning with Bhinneka Tunggal Ika — unity in diversity. The United States and Indonesia are bound together by shared interests and shared values. Just like in the United States, the spirit of tolerance is also written into Indonesian Constitution; symbolized in mosques and churches and temples standing alongside each other.

He reminded us again about the Indonesian values which we ourselves sometimes often forget, Pancasila. Hearing that coming from such a prominent figure has really made us appreciates our own values even more.

 

He also mentioned that development is inseparable from the role of democracy. This is what our government is now doing, promotes development while at the same time building democracy. With all those shared values, we hope to further increase our close cooperation in various fields.

 

Other thing that impressed me and most of Indonesian people, is when President Obama mentioned that he was surprised to see how far Indonesia has developed ever since he left Jakarta. There was only one 5-starred hotel and a mall at that time, but now he saw many skyscrapers and malls in every corner of the city. I was also caught by surprised that President Obama still well remembered his Indonesian favorite food, satay and baso (meatballs).

TOT: Finally honourable Ambassador, would you like to give any message to the readers of The Oslo Times, who are constantly on the rise worldwide with each passing day?

Ms. Esti Andayani: The Oslo Times is an online media that is easy to be accessed by people all over the world. Online media has various timeliness, accuracy of the content and ability to deliver to the readers about various information, news and reports. Therefore, the readers should be smart and have a broad and open mind in choosing and digesting the news they are reading. I believe The Oslo Times have such good quality for an online media, just as its readers have good understanding towards the context of information contained. I hope by reading this article, your readers would have a better understanding and interest about Indonesia.

Thank you respected Ambassador. We think that this session has indeed been informative and beneficial for The Oslo Times and its readers. Thanks yet again!


 

©The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

Harmful practices to the female body; part 1 Female Genital Mutilation

“Mama tied a blindfold over my eyes. The next thing I felt my flesh was being cut away. I heard the blade sawing back and forth through my skin. The pain between my legs was so intense I wished I would die.” –Waris Dirie, UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador and spokesperson on FGM

1. What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Most of the victims live in African countries, some in the Middle East and Asian countries and it is increasing in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada.

FGM is usually performed by an older experienced woman with no medical training. In primitive areas, anaesthetics and antiseptic treatment is not used and the tools consist of knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass and razor blades. A mixture of herbs is placed on the wound to tighten the vagina and stop the bleeding. The age of the girls varies from infants to girls to the age of 10 depending on the community and family.

It is extreme form of discrimination against women and performed on innocent children that are not able to defend themselves. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

2. 4 types of FGM

According to WHO;

a)     Excision (removal) of the clitoral hood with or without removal of part or all of the clitoris. Occurs in 85% of the FGM.

b)     Removal of the clitoris together with part or all of the labia minora. Occurs in 85% of the FGM.

c)      Removal of part or all of the external genitalia (clitoris, labia minora, and labia majora) and stitching and/or narrowing of the vaginal opening leaving a small hole for urine and menstrual flow. Occurs in Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, parts of Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.

d)     All other operations of the female genitalia.

3. History of Female Circumcision

Female circumcision, also known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is not a recent phenomenon as it has been dated back as far as to 2nd century BC when a geographer, Agatharchides of Cridus wrote about the subject that occurred among tribes residing on the western coast of the Red Sea (today’s Egypt). Based on the current areas practicing FGM, it seems as the tradition has originated from Egypt and spread. Others believe that the custom was rooted in the kingdom of the Pharaohs.

As Islam rose throughout the region, Egyptians raided territories in the south and exported Sudanic slaves. Female slaves were sold at a higher price if they were “sewn up” as they became unable to give birth. After many converting to Islam, this practice was abolished as Islam prohibits Muslims from harming their body and enslaving others.

Today this primitive tradition has reached the coasts of America, Europe, Australia and Canada. Numbers from Amnesty International estimates that 135 million women have experienced FGM and that between 2-3 million girls and infants undergoes this practice every year.  In Africa alone it is about 92 million girls who has undergone FGM.

4. Medical consequence of FGM

FGM have absolutely no health benefits for the girls except doing harm and causing extreme pain. As the healthy genital tissue is being removed, the body cannot function in a natural way. Since this procedure is being practiced by people who have no medical training and without using any necessary anesthetic or sterilization, the FGM can lead to death by shock from bleeding or infections by the unsterilized tools. The first sexual intercourse will be extremely painful who will be needed to be opened and this is being performed by the partner with a knife. Besides bleeding there are several short and long term complications that these girls have to deal with and I have listed them shortly.

Depending on the degree of mutilation, short term health problems caused by FGM;

  1. Severe pain and shock
  2. Bacterial infection
  3. Urine retention
  4. Open sores injury to adjacent tissues
  5. Immediate fatal haemorrhaging (bleeding)
  6. Extreme pain as girls are cut without being numbed and the worst pain occurs the next day when the girls have to urinate
  7. Trauma as girls are forced and held down by several women

Long-term implications;

  1. Extensive damage of the external reproductive system
  2. Uterus, vaginal and pelvic infections
  3. Cysts and neuromas
  4. Increased risk of Vesico Vaginal Fistula
  5. Complications in pregnancy and child birth
  6. Psychological damage
  7. Sexual dysfunction
  8. Difficulties in menstruation
  9. Recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections
  10. Infertility
  11. The need for later surgeries such as to be cut open to allow childbirth and sexual intercourse after marriage. Sometimes it is also stitched again several times after childbirth.
  12. Problems urinating as girls are left with a small opening. This can slow or strain the normal flow of urine and lead to infections
  13. Gynecological health problems as they are not able to pass all of their menstrual blood out and have infections over and over again.
  14. Increased risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections (STD/STI) including HIV as the procedure is being performed in unclean conditions
  15. Psychological and emotional stress. A study by Pharos, a Dutch group that gathered health care information of refugees and migrants revealed in February 2010 that majority of these women suffered from stress, anxiety and was aggressive. They were also most likely to have relational problems or fear for relations. According to the study, it is believed that an estimate of 50 girls is being genitally mutilated every year in the Netherlands.

5. Where is FGM practiced?

Southeast Asia; Indonesia, Malaysia,

Central Asia; Tajikistan

Eastern Europe; Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia

Middle East; Yemen, UAE, turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Palestinian territories, Pakistan, Oman, Jordan, Iraq and Kurdistan, Iran,

Africa; Zimbabwe, Zaire, Uganda, Togo, Tanzania, South Africa, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, republic of Congo, Nigeria, Niger, Mozambique, Mauritania, Mali, Malawi, Libya, Liberia, Kenya, guinea-Bissau, guinea, Ghana, Gambia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Djibouti, democratic republic of the Congo, cote d’ivoire, Comoros, Chad, central African republic, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Benin, Algeria

The majority of cases of FGM are carried out in 28 African countries. In some countries, (e.g. Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan), prevalence rates can be as high as 98 per cent. In other countries, such as Nigeria, Kenya, Togo and Senegal, the prevalence rates vary between 20 and 50 per cent. It is more accurate however, to view FGM as being practised by specific ethnic groups, rather than by a whole country, as communities practising FGM straddle national boundaries. FGM takes place in parts of the Middle East, i.e. in Yemen, Oman, Iraqi Kurdistan, amongst some Bedouin women in Israel, and was also practised by the Ethiopian Jews, and it is unclear whether they continue with the practice now that they are settled in Israel. FGM is also practised among Bohra Muslim populations in parts of India and Pakistan, and amongst Muslim populations in Malaysia and Indonesia.

6. Religion or culture?

Although FGM happens in countries with Muslim majority, and people think that it is associated with Islam, FGM is not supported by any religion and condemned by many religious leaders.

In fact FGM is a pre-Islamic tradition and since Islam prohibits humans from harming and mutilating their body, therefore FGM is forbidden in Islam. In Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Senegal, Benin, and Ghana, Muslim population groups are more likely to practice FGC than Christian groups but in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Niger, the prevalence is greater among Christian groups.

Today FGM is a mixture of cultural, religious and social factors. For instance, the social pressure to perform FGM because others in the same community do it keeps the practice strong. As from the religious view, the parents thinks that FGM is necessary to raise the daughter properly and make sure that she is a virgin until she is married even though no religious scripture supports this. It is motivated by the thought of proper sexual behavior.

7. Reasons and justification

  1. custom and tradition
  2. religion; in the mistaken belief that it is a religious requirement
  3. preservation of virginity/chastity
  4. social acceptance, especially for marriage
  5. hygiene and cleanliness
  6. increasing sexual pleasure for the male
  7. family honour
  8. a sense of belonging to the group and conversely the fear of social exclusion
  9. enhancing fertility

8. What can be done to prevent and abolish FGM?

Each community should arrange meetings where they discuss, talk and consider opinions about FGM. Here it would be important to allow the elder generation to speak with the young. It is important to spread out and explain about the harsh health problems FGM causes.

Next important thing is education. Education is the key to everything. As we can see, this is happening in areas where most people is illiterate or doesn’t have the possibility to go to school. The generations repeat themselves and the circle is hard to break. Another important thing would be that Islamic scholars and other religious leaders should change the perception about FGM as people listen to them.

Every country and community should work towards changing the attitude as women feels they are being disloyal to their culture for not choosing FGM. This pressure can change if doctors and other health care workers would talk with women about the dangers of FGC and offer other options that don’t involve cutting. Some human rights advocates also suggest that men could help reduce the practice of FGC by openly marrying uncut women. Many human rights organizations are also calling on religious leaders to openly confirm that their religions do not require women to have FGC.

Last, if the countries establish strict laws and investigate cases regarding FGM, then it will have some effect but it will not be enough to abolish it as 18 African countries has laws or decrees against FGM. Even countries with the highest rates of FGM have recently openly noted the need for banning this practice. Fines and jail sentences are typically minor, but most view any sanctions against FGC as a good start.

It is important that everyone is aware of this heinous practice that mutilates the female body. It is hard to understand how parents can perform this on their infant babies who are not able to defend themselves. Every country should implement various strategies to eliminate FGM and it starts with education and communication.

Who was Osama bin Laden, the controversial figure of our century

With the fall of Hitler, the world took a CY of relief believing that now no one would rise against the humanity, but God has created this world for both the devil & the humans. The evil spirit too lives here & is present in every corner of the world. When one evil dies the other with new philosophy took his place in a more dramatic & distinguished manner. After the holocaust of world war II no one had thought at that time that the new definition of terrorism will take birth in the troubled lands of the world earlier the Jews were running away from the threat of Christian fundamentalists & now in the whole new nuclear era they will be facing the new form of orthodoxies from the Arab world with their multifaceted leader named Osama Bin Laden who though started his life as an innocent being but inspired from the self negative mind he gave birth to the neo think tanks which are lethal & loyal whose dimensions are based on the falsification of the facts which not only spread like a wild fire through the minds & hearts of  illiterates & poverty driven hinterlands but also changed the dimensions of the war doctrines. The journey of this versatile personality from missionary scholar to a most dreaded terrorist mind of the world was full of strategic difficulties just like the one faced in the political corners of the world.

His drive from preaching to terrorizing the world is as simple as the man himself but with the hidden cruelty in mind. It is said in every religion of the world that if your mind & hearts are cruel & you portray yourself as a great leader for masses then the fate of your hidden truth will be revealed some day & the spirit will find no shelter of peace in the world.

The rumor of Osama being a CIA agent who worked to collapsed Soviet regime circulating the human circles is as false as the rumor itself. But the coincidence is that the creation and popularity rose at the same time when two though never worked together have helped and nourished the Afghan militias and war lords to fight against the Soviet invasion. But after the Soviets ouster from Pashtun heartland, the game now changed into the one of the biggest great war gambles of the 21st Century which if tasted success may had changed the map of the world. The start of this century was welcomed by the bang of the biggest terrorist attacks which have shaped the political economics for the generations to come. The great game of hide & seek started between western powers and the terrorists organizations which as the face has Osama bin Laden on their side as the leader saw many twists & turns just the great caves of Tora Bora where rumors are believed like a valid source of information for planning an escape. But with the intelligence advance their security research the money pondered on the ever hungry pockets of terror fund which have given boost to their activities across the globe. The effect of their terror driven is such that even people from well qualified background started to join & the armed forces were begging for their vacancies to be filled in many countries due to the fear of relocation to the war zone where the souls of all energies will fight for their survivals making the aim of which donkey wins the battle and call the ruler of the world.

The news of Osama Bin Laden’s death spread like wildfire as the United States Special operations forces tracked him down in a compound in Abbottabad Pakistan and killed him on May 2, 2011 by gunshot to his head and chest. Many was shocked to read the news that the world’s most wanted man who topped the terrorists lists around the world was killed by US forces. I personally didn’t believe it at first but after reading several newspaper it was clear to me that Osama had been defeated.

How is it possible that this man who was in hiding for over ten years was living in Pakistan just 0.8 miles (1.3 km) southwest of the Pakistan Military Academy? What happened after so many years that the hiding went wrong? It all started with the identification of the courier and CIA using surveillance photos and intelligence reports to determine the identities of the inhabitants in the compound. There was no internet or landline telephone service to the house and its residents buried and burned their trash unlike the other neighbors who would set their garbage out for collection. In the mean time, the CIA had already established a safe house in Abbottabad where a team observed the compound over several months using informants and other techniques to gather information.

After the death of Osama, the residents of Abbottabad are left confused and suspicious about the killing taking place before dawn. The President of USA, Barack Obama decided to not release the photos of the slain Al-Qaida leader claiming that “it would pose a security risk and it is inconsistent with American values.”

The American government had their right on their side to hunt Osama Bin Laden and capture him dead or alive after being attacked by Al-Qaida who killed thousands of innocent people. So I’m asking; “What is the American values when it comes to killing a person? Is it to wrap him in a sheet and toss him into the deep sea? Many Islamic scholars questioned Obama’s decision to bury Osama at the sea saying that maritime burial isn’t allowed in Islamic practice. To this Obama responded; “Frankly, we took more care on this than, obviously, bin Laden took when he killed 3,000 people. He didn’t have much regard for how they were treated and desecrated. But that, again, is something that makes us different. And I think we handled it appropriately.” I see sea burial as disrespectful as long as the deceased himself don’t wish for it, and to throw someone overboard like that is against every human right values and believes. He should have been buried in his homeland or given back to his family or followers as Osama can’t do much after his death. What Al-Qaida will do is another story.

So who was this man that would pose a huge security risk even after his death and that United States had to bury him in the sea?

The beginning


Osama was born in 1957 as the 17th son among 50 brothers and sisters. His father was from Yemen and mother of Syrian origin. His father Mohammed Awad bin Laden started his life as a very poor laborer (porter in Jeddah port) and ended up as owner of the biggest construction company in the kingdom. During the reign of King Saud, bin Laden the father became very close to the royal family when he took the risk of building King Saud’s palaces much cheaper than the cheapest bid. He impressed King Saud with his performance but he also built good relations with other members of the royal family, especially Faisal. Indeed, he was appointed for a period as the minister of public works.

The father was fairly devoted Moslem, very humble and generous. He was so proud of the bag he used when he was a porter that he kept it as a trophy in the main reception room in his palace.

The father had very dominating personality and had a tough discipline and observed all the children with strict religious and social code. He dealt with his children as big men and demanded them to show confidence at young age.

Early life, education and marriage

Osama had his primary, secondary and university education in Jeddah and got a degree in economics and business administration in 1981 from King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah. At University, Osama’s main interest was religion where he interpreted the Qur’an and did charitable work.
In 1974, 17 year old Osama married Najwa Ghanem but she divorced him in 2001 before the attacks. The second wife Khadijah Sharif also divorced him in the 1990’s. The third and fourth wives Khairiah Sabar and Siham Sabar’s fate is unknown, the fifth unknown wife with whom his marriage was immediately annulled, and last the 57 year old Osama married a younger wife, the 27 year old wife Amal al-Sadah who was in the compound with him at the time of his death.

In addition to the general Islamic commitment he started forming an Islamic responsibility at early age. His father used to host hundreds of pilgrims during Hajj season from all over the world. Some of those were senior Islamic scholars or leaders of Muslim movements. This habit went on even after his father’s death through his elder brothers. He used to make good contacts and relations through those gatherings.

At secondary school and university he adopted the main trend of many educated Muslims at that time, Muslim Brotherhood. Interestingly, the 1980 raid in the Grand Mosque in Mecca was not appealing to him, neither the theology nor that group. He had two distinguished teachers in Islamic studies, which was a compulsory subject in the university. First was Abdullah Azzam who became later as one of the big names in Afghanistan and the second was Mohammed Quttub, a famous Islamic writer and philosopher.

Born with a silver spoon but chose a simple life

Bin Laden was brought up with good manners. He was extremely humble and very generous person who insisted to join his comrades in every act. He would cook and serve for them frequently and chose to live a simple life in a small flat in Jeddah or in a shed in Afghanistan and insisted on his family to eat and dress simple as well.

He was known to be strictly truthful and never lie. Despite being a shy person, Osama had a dominating and charismatic personality. He spoke very little and seemed to be serious most of the time. He would appear with a soft smile but almost ever laugh out loud. Osama had courage in him that even if a car bomb exploded near by him, he would not show a flicker as he was exposed to more than 40-45 incidents of heavy bombardment.

Osama was an educated man and spent a great deal of time reading. What most people don’t know is that he also used to write poetry.

Afghanistan


His first travel to Afghanistan was the first 2 weeks of the Soviet invasion. He travelled to Pakistan and was taken by his hosts Jamaat Islami from Karachi to Peshawar to see the refugees and meet some leaders. He went back to the kingdom and started lobbying with his brothers, relatives and friends at the school to support the mujahedeen and succeeded in collecting huge amount of money and material as donations to jihad. He made another trip to take this material with few Pakistanis and Afghanis who were working in bin Laden Company for more than 10 years. Again, he did not stay more than a month. The trip was to Pakistan and the border only and was not to Afghanistan. He went on collecting money and going in short trips once or twice a year until 1982.

In 1982, he decided to travel inside to Afghanistan and brought with him plenty of the construction machinery and put them at the disposal of the mujahedeen and started to join battles as well.

In 1984 he had one further step in strengthening his presence in Afghanistan by establishing the guesthouse in Peshawar (Baitul’ansar). That house was supposed to be the first station of Arab mujahedeen when they come to Afghanistan before going to the front or start training. At that period Osama did not have his own command or training camps and used to send the newcomers to one of the Afghan factions.

The guesthouse establishment was coinciding with the formation of Jihad Service Bureau by Abdullah Azzam in Peshawar. The Bureau was very active in terms of media, publications and charity work. The Bureau publications were important in attracting more Saudis and Arabs to Afghanistan.

In 1986, Osama decided to have his own camps inside Afghanistan and within two years he built more than six camps. Some were mobilized more than once. He decided to have his own front and to run his own battles with his own command. Among the Arab fighters he had, there were senior Arab ex-military men from Syria and Egypt with good military experience. During the period 1984-1989 he was staying more in Afghanistan than Saudi Arabia and would spend a total of eight months a year or more in Afghanistan.

Al-Qa’edah

In 1988 he noticed that he was backward in his documentation and was not able to give answers to some families asking about their loved ones gone missing in Afghanistan. He decided to make the matter much more organized and arranged for proper documentation. He made a tracking record of the visitors, be they mujahedeen or charity or simple visitors. Their movement between the guesthouse and the camps had to be recorded as well as their first arrival and final departure. The whole complex was then termed Al-Qa’edah which is an Arabic word meaning “The Base.”

Return to the Kingdom

Late 1989 after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, he went to the kingdom in an ordinary trip. There he was banned from travel and was trapped in the kingdom. The Soviet withdrawal might have been a factor but the main reason for the travel ban was his intentions to start a new “front” of jihad in South Yemen. In addition, he embarrassed the regime by lectures and speeches warning of impending invasion by Saddam. At that time the regime was at very good terms with Saddam. He was instructed officially to keep low profile and not to give public talks. Despite the travel ban he was not hostile to regime at this stage. Indeed he presented a written advice in the form of a detailed, personal, private and confidential letter to the king few weeks before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

The Iraqi invasion

He reacted swiftly to Iraqi invasion and saw it fulfilling his prophecy. He immediately forwarded another letter to the king suggesting in detail how to protect the country from potentially advancing Iraqi forces. In addition to many military tactics suggested, he volunteered to bring all the Arab mujahedeen to defend the kingdom. That letter was presented in the first few days of the incident, and the regime response was of consideration! While he was expecting some call to mobilize his men and equipment he heard the news which transferred his life completely. The Americans are coming. He always describes that moment as shocking moment. He felt depressed and thought that maneuvers had to change. Instead of writing to the king or approaching other members of the royal family, he started lobbying through religious scholars and Muslim activists. He succeeded in extracting a fatwah from one of the senior scholars that training and readiness is a religious duty. He immediately circulated that fatwah and convinced people to have their training in Afghanistan. It was estimated that 4000 went to Afghanistan in response to the fatwah. The regime was not happy with his activities so they limited his movement to Jeddah only. To intimidate him, the regime raided his farm in the suburb of Jeddah by the National Guard. He was not there during the raid and was very angry when told. He wrote a letter of protest to Prince Abdullah. Abdullah apologized and claimed he is not aware and promised to punish who ever were responsible.

Leaving the Kingdom

In the end, Osama was fed up with the house arrest situation and had a hard time staying in a country with American forces around. One of his brothers was very close to King Fahad and also close to Prince Ahmed, deputy minister of interior. He convinced his brother that he needed to leave the country to sort out some business matters in Pakistan and come back. There was a difficult obstacle, the stubborn Prince Nayef, minister of interior. His brother waited until Nayef went in a trip outside the kingdom and extracted lifting the ban from Prince Ahmed. When he arrived in Pakistan around April 1991 he sent a letter to his brother telling him that he is not coming back and apologized for letting him down with the royal family.

Back in Afghanistan

After his arrival to Pakistan he went straight to Afghanistan because he knew the Pakistani intelligence would hand him back to the Saudis. There, he attended the collapse of the communist regime and the consequent dispute between the Afghan parties. He spent great effort to arbitrate between them but with no success and ordered his followers to avoid any involvement in the conflict and told them it was a sin to side with any faction. During his stay the Saudis tried more than once to kidnap or kill him in collaboration with the Pakistani intelligence but his friends in the Saudi and Pakistani establishments would always leak the plan and make him ready for it. After his failure in sorting the Afghani dispute, he decided to leave Afghanistan. The only alternative country he had was Sudan. He left Afghanistan disguised in private jet only few months after his arrival. That was late 1991.

Sudan

His choice of Sudan had nothing to do with jihad or “terrorism.” He was attracted to Sudan because of what was at that time an Islamic banner raised by the new regime in Sudan. He wanted to have good refuge as well as help the government in its construction projects. There was no intention from his side or from the Sudanese regime to have any military activity in Sudan. Indeed the Sudanese government refused even sending some of his followers to the front in the south. He was treated in Sudan as a special guest who wanted to help Sudan when everybody was turning away. In Sudan he mobilized a lot of construction equipment and enrolled himself in busy construction projects. He spent good effort in convincing Saudi businessmen to invest in Sudan and had reasonable success. Many of his brothers and Jeddah merchants had and still have investment in real estate, farming and agricultural industry. In Sudan he had again escaped an assassination attempt which turned out later to be the plan of Saudi intelligence.

On his arrival to Sudan and early 1994, he had become classified as enemy of the Saudi regime and his assets were frozen between 1992 and 1994. He continued his verbal assault on King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and in response on March 5th, 1994 they withdrew his citizenship. After a long time of silence, Osama said that he didn’t need the Saudi citizenship to identify himself. He then formed together with activists and scholars from the kingdom a group called “Advice and Reform Committee” (ARC). The ARC was, according to its communiqués and published agenda, a purely political group. The ARC published around 17 communiqués which might have contained harsh criticism of the Saudi regime and plenty of religious rhetoric but never contained reference for violence or incitement of violence.

Sudan was exposed to huge international pressure for hosting bin Laden and his followers, and bin Laden felt that he is becoming an embarrassment to the Sudanese. Early in 1996 he started making contacts with his old friends in Afghanistan to prepare for his reception. He fled Sudan in a very well planned trip with many of his followers to go straight to Jalalabad in Eastern Afghanistan.

Somalia and Yemen

During his stay in Sudan anti-American incidents happened in Somalia and South Yemen. Neither of the two incidents was performed by his group in the proper sense of chain of command. Both were performed by people who had training in Afghanistan and had enough anti-American drive. He might have given some sanctioning to the operations.

Third visit to Afghanistan

The situation in Afghanistan was very unstable between many factions but since Osama had good relationship with all of them, they all protected him. The area he stayed in was under the control of Yunis Khalis, an influential warlord who later joined Taliban.

June 1996, after his arrival in Afghanistan was the Khobar bombing. Nobody claimed responsibility, but sources from inside the Saudi ministry of interior confirmed involvement of Arab Afghans, with possible link to bin Laden. The Saudi government wanted to frame Shi’a, at the beginning but Americans were very suspicious of the Saudi story. Bin Laden himself never claimed responsibility but gave many hints that he might have been involved. The Saudi government has acknowledged recently that bin Laden’s men were behind the bombing.

After few months of his arrival he issued his first anti-American message, a Declaration of War. That declaration was limited to expelling American forces outside the Arabian Peninsula. Interest in him by the Saudis never stopped and they tried very hard to convince Yunis Khalis to hand him over, and he flatly refused despite the luxurious offers. The Saudis never gave up on trying to get Laden. Early 1997 they bought some mercenaries in the Pakistani Afghani border. The operation was arranged with the Pakistani intelligence. The information leaked to bin Laden and he decided to move immediately to Qandahar, the stronghold of Taliban. The operation was then cancelled.

When bin Laden left Jalalabad, he ordered many of his followers to join Taliban in their war against Dostum and to protect Kabul but Taliban troops were betrayed by a trap in the north and Kabul front was exposed to Shah Masood and many of the Taliban fighters were killed.

Another kidnap attempt

In late 1997 a big operation was planned by the Americans. The primary plan was for American Special Forces to attack bin Laden’s residence in Qandahar and kidnap him in a commando style operation. The plan was mocked in Pakistani desert and proved dangerous. While the Americans were reconsidering the decision, the news leaked to bin Laden, again through the Pakistani military, and he made it public. The Americans had no choice but to cancel.

Making links with the Ulema

Bin Laden noticed that the driving force in Taliban were Ulema (religious scholars). He made very good links with them for the subject of American forces in the Arabian Peninsula. He was able to extract a fatwah signed by some 40 scholars in Afghanistan sanctioning the use of all means to expel the American forces from the Peninsula. The issue of that fatwah was an asset to him inside Taliban domain.

His second presence in Afghanistan attracted many mujahedeen to move there again and among those were Ayman El-Zawahery of Egyptian Jihad and Rift’ee Taha of Jama’a Islamia. Bin Laden decided to go pan-Islamic instead of Saudi or Arabic and attracted Kashmiris, Pakistanis, Indians, and Muslims from the Soviet Republics. He thought at that stage that he could make an international alliance against America and in February 1998 he declared the formation of the International Front. The declaration contained two elements, formation of the front and a fatwah sanctioning killing Americans and Jews. Apart from two Arabic newspapers, the declaration had minimal coverage by the press.

Attack in Khost camp

The camp was an almost deserted camp where only few Arabs stayed, with a neighbouring camp of Kashmiris. Bin Laden himself was hundreds of miles away, and the rest of Arab Afghans were in the northern front celebrating their recent victories. Since the American attack bin Laden was put in heavy protection and advised to stay hiding. His followers made another credit when they protected Kabul front again and pushed Masood forces back.

September 11 attacks

“Allah knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers but after the situation became unbearable and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were that of 1982 and the events that followed – when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the U.S. Sixth Fleet. As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me punish the unjust the same way (and) to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women.”

Osama bin Laden, 2004

19 Al-Qaida members hijacked four commercial passenger airplanes crashing two of them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, the third was crashed into Pentagon in Arlington and the fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in Pennsylvania after some of the passengers attempt to take over control. Nearly 3000 people died in this attack including the hijackers.

Faith and ideology

Osama believed that implementing the Sharia law would form a better Muslim world and that pan-Arabism, socialism, communism and western democracy had to be opposed. He was very much impressed by the ideology of Sayyid Qutb (Egyptian scholar), Hassan al-Banna and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (who founded the religious movement wahabism). Osama said that United States committed injustice against Muslim countries and spoke about the need to eliminate the State of Israel and the necessity of the US forces withdrawing from the Middle East. His strategy against the enemy was to lure them into a long war in the Muslim countries where jihadist fighters would never surrender leading to the economic collapse of the enemy nation. The Soviet Union collapsed after years of fighting in Afghanistan and many authors have stated that the United States was on the edge of suffering the same fate

Relation with Al-Saud

Bin Laden never had any official or personal relations with the Saudi regime or the royal family. All his contacts would happen through his brothers. The brothers would approach two members of the royal family who were fairly sympathetic to Osama. They were Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz, deputy minister of interior and Abdul Rahman bin Abdul Aziz, deputy minister of defense. He might have met them in few occasions but those meetings would have been purely social or accidental in one of his brother’s houses. Specifically he had no relation with Turki al-Faisal head of Saudi intelligence. He used to be very suspicious of his role in Afghanistan and once had open confrontation with him in 1991 and accused him of being the reason of the fight between Afghan factions. He was wary of the Saudi government very early in the eighties, but he thought it was wiser to keep silent and benefit from their de facto support to jihad in that period.

Relations with America

Some people have suggested and claimed that Osama was working for the CIA and other American departments, but this has been rejected by the American officials. Since the late 70’s Osama had a strong anti-America feeling and committed himself and his family to avoid buying American goods unless it was necessary. Bin Laden would bring money from individuals donating straight to him. The weapons he had were either captured from the Soviets or bought from other factions.

Relations with Pakistan

Osama had much respect by many Pakistanis including people in the army, intelligence and the religious establishment such as many fundamental Islamic groups. They were so close that they would always leak any plan against him by the Pakistani-Saudi-American alliance. Osama had also a close friendship with the former director of ISI (Pakistani Intelligence), Hamid Gul.

Relations with Taliban

Taliban are not simply another Afghan faction supported by Pakistan, they are sincere to their beliefs and a religiously committed group unspoiled by political tactics. They would never bargain with what they see as matters of principle and Bin Laden for them is a saint. He is a symbol of sacrifice for the sake of jihad as they see him as very rich Arab from the Holy Land who gave up his wealth and luxury to fight for the sake of his brother Muslims in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden became an intimate part of Taliban structure when he taught them how to deal with state affairs in a proper manner, for example, they were about to be fooled by some oil and gas companies and sell the pipeline project for cheap and Osama advised them to learn from the Iraq-Turkey and Iraq-Syria agreements. They wanted to privatize some factories and were about to sell them to Pakistani businessmen for cheap prices but he taught them how to conduct proper bidding procedure and guarantee good prices.

Relation with Iran

Iran knows that bin Laden is a committed Sunni and he regards Iran as Shi’a state. The trust between the two is minimal but both have avoided criticizing each other publicly.

Finance

Osama thought it was necessary to guarantee the Islamic nature of the finance activity. For example, he would never invest in non-Islamic country; never use banks unless it was absolutely necessary, didn’t believe in stock market because he thought the investor cannot escape interest since the money has to be in a bank and produce some interest. He also believed that the Jews control banks and stock market.

He had 3 setbacks which would have made him bankrupt. The first was the freezing of his assets by the Saudi government. Nobody knows the exact amount but it was probably in the range of 200-300 million dollars. The second setback was the loss he had in Sudan. The Sudanese government was too weak financially to pay him for the construction projects and he ended up hardly with 10% of the payment. He lost in Sudan not less than 150 million dollars.

Osama’s brothers agreed to keep many assets of the father and distribute the profits only. Most of the brothers and sisters are observing Muslims and very careful to not to “spoil” their income with money which is not theirs as they believe it is their duty to let the owner of any riyal to have it. The only way they guarantee that is by letting bin Laden’s share reach him. Some of the brothers and sisters believed it was their religious duty to support this distinguished brother from their own money. While many are very careful not to irritate the royal family, many more do not care and insist on letting the money reach Osama. Another big source of income to bin Laden was the donations. During the early jihad time when it was blessed by the Saudi regime, he made excellent relations with many wealthy Saudis and Arabs who would donate huge amounts of money to him.

Pakistan’s alleged role of hiding Laden

Critics have accused Pakistan’s military and security establishment of protecting bin Laden. This case worsens the U.S. ties with Pakistan and future support. Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari has strongly denied that his country’s security forces may have sheltered Osama bin Laden and Pakistan’s United States envoy, ambassador Husain Haqqani, promised a “full inquiry” into how Pakistani intelligence services failed to find bin Laden in a fortified compound, just a few hours’ drive from Islamabad, stating that “obviously bin Laden did have a support system.”

Timeline

1957 Born Osama bin Mohammad bin Awad bin Laden in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

1970 Father dies in a helicopter accident.

1974 Marries distant relative, Najwa Ghanem.

1976 Studies economics and management at King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah.

1979 Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.

1984 Bin Laden is involved in Peshawar supporting Arab volunteers to fight Soviets. Moves between Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Sudan.

1988 Al-Qaida – “the Base” – established in Afghanistan as centre for radical Muslims opposing the US, Israel and its allies.

1989 Soviet Union withdraws from Afghanistan. Bin Laden returns to Saudi Arabia to work for the family company and uses his network to raise funds for veterans of the Afghan war.

1991 Bin Laden is expelled from Saudi Arabia due to his anti government activities.

1992 Claims responsibility for attacking US soldiers in Yemen.

1993 Claims responsibilities for fire fight in Somalia that killed 18 US military personnel.

1994 Expelled from Sudan. Saudi Arabia revokes his citizenship and his family disowns him.

1995 Saudi Arabia claims Bin Laden links to Riyadh car bombing: six killed including five Americans, 60 injured.

1996 Bin Laden leaves Sudan for Afghanistan. Issues fatwa against all US military personnel, faxed to supporters across the world. Taliban gives him sanctuary in Afghanistan.

1998 A truck bomb explosions at US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania kills 224 people including 12 Americans. Bin Laden is added to FBI’s “10 most wanted fugitives” list.

2000 Al-Qaida claims responsibility for strike on US destroyer Cole at Yemeni port of Aden. Seventeen soldiers killed.

2001 11 September Hijacked planes destroy the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Centre and target the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000. President George Bush says Bin Laden is wanted “dead or alive.”

December, US-backed anti-Taliban forces capture Bin Laden’s base in the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan, but find no trace of the fugitive terrorist.

2002 September Al-Jazeera broadcasts a poor-quality tape, claimed to be the voice of Bin Laden, praising the 9/11 hijackers for changing “the course of history.”

November Al-Qaida claims responsibility for three suicide car bombs at the Mombasa Paradise resort hotel, killing 15 and wounding 80.

2003 An audio tape believed to be the voice of bin Laden calls for attack on the US if Iraq is invaded.

2004 October, A 18-minute video is sent to al-Jazeera in which Bin Laden accepts responsibility for the first time for the 9/11 attacks, and condemns Bush days before US presidential election. Says his inspiration for 9/11 was seeing Israeli aircraft bomb tower blocks in Lebanon in 1982.

2007 September, Rumour that Bin Laden is dead is confounded by first new video in three years, warning the US it is vulnerable.

2008 May Bin Laden urge Muslims to break the Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.

2009 After being elected, President Obama authorizes killing or capture of bin Laden as “top priority” of war on Al Qaeda.

2010 January, Audio tape message from Bin Laden, claiming responsibility for the failed Christmas day attempted bombing of US-bound plane. US president Barack Obama claims al-Qaida weakened by US actions.

March, Bin Laden claims in a taped message that al-Qaida will kill any American prisoners if the US executes alleged September 11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

2011 January, Bin Laden says in a taped message that French hostages held in Niger will not be freed unless France pulls troops out of all Muslim lands.

1 May, Barack Obama announces that Bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan.
Sources used for facts;

www.cnn.com

www.boston.com

www.infoplease.com

Wikipedia

www.pbs.org – frontline

Terry Jones – The insane provocateur

In the last first decade of this century many worst incidents occurred which changed the world’s environment 360 degree. These guerilla attacks gave rise to fundamentalism in every corner of the world after the silence of 60 plus odd years after WWII & Hitler’s holocaust which had fill the world with hatred all around. The fall of WTC ignite the fire of new dimensions of orthodoxies. Once the peaceful & acceptable nature of Christians in the west has now turned anti Islamic fill with hatred with the eyes of discrimination towards the Muslim world. This has now became a major issue for all the nations of the world especially those who have been affected by the so called famed War on Terror which though started as a retaliation by the west to solve this radical mess but now has turned into an eye sore for the world with lives in millions have been lost on both the sides which just broaden a gap between the two theological worlds. If we people are serious to bring peace & harmony in the world then we together have to change our mind sets & follow the path of true light which never differentiate among the creatures of this world. As just the environment heated the events carried out by the `The Florida based pastor Terry Jones announced on July 12th, 2010 that he was planning to burn the Quran on the 9th anniversary of 9/11. The statement caused many protests and condemnations among not only Muslim organizations, but also organizations such as National Association of Evangelicals, German Evangelical Alliance and International Humanist and Ethical Union. President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Anders Fogh Rasmussen and various others gave their negative reaction fearing that the event would cause harm and have negative effect on the foreign security forces. President Obama called the burning event a stunt and urged Jones to not go through with the plans. The fear of the western leaders was right as Jones got the much needed publicity which sparked even the calmest corners in the most disturbed areas of the world costing lives of several innocents & risking more of another hundreds. A pastor is a shepherd used in Old Testament where it denotes that he has a responsibility to guide the herds of knowledge seekers & the followers who are following him for his role in their religion. If the leader started to follow the path which not only against the communal harmony but also denied theologically will not only disturbs the peaceful co existence of all the religions but also give rise to social in difference.

Though previous to 9/11, Jones had negotiation conversations with Imam Mohammad Musri and told him that he would cancel the burning if they would move the planned mosque away from Ground zero since no Americans wanted it there. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf rejected this statement and said there were no plans of stopping the construction. So the negotiations between Jones and Musri continued and Jones wished to meet with Imam Rauf who did not want to meet “someone who isn’t committed to pursue peace.” Finally after much pressure, Jones announced on September 10th that he was not going to burn the Quran after all, but had no guarantees for the future. And indeed he was right, for after almost 7 months of silence, Terry Jones got his 15 minutes of fame together with the Christian fundamentalist Wayne Sapp when they burned the Quran in a church in Florida March 20, 2011. It is just an insane behavior of Terry Jones who just wants to force his views on others creating a huge divide in already a much divided society which still struggling to stand on its feet for its peaceful survival. Before they burned it, the Quran had to go through a trial as the law states; Innocent until proven guilty. So these 32 people (including some ex-Muslims who have converted to Christianity) found the Quran guilty of a variety of crimes such as murder, rape, deception and being responsible for terrorist activities around the world. The punishment for these crimes was to be soaked in kerosene for an hour and then burned on a barbeque grill in a ceremony lead by Wayne Sapp. This made me think about which haunts they had in Europe and America in the 1400th-1600th century when women and girls were trialed for being witches and of course they would be burned alive on the stake as a punishment. This is completely unjustified of taking Holy book to trail which from ages since its formation has never taught its followers to take laws in their hands, to hate other religions & deny others of their freedom. Every religion & every book of his teachings never taught against the nature of Almighty & the human society. It we who have divided ourselves with greed, hunger, who seeks the social comforts of the changing environment, human civilizations has been a witness to several such incidents where whenever the hate spreads its roots it had just affected those who are the planters of its seeds. Humans harvest only which they sow & the history is the best place to seek into it. If we still not wake up from our self centered theology then the day is not far when we will turn ourselves into a cannibal beast killing the very existence of the small share of the harmony which still lives in our hearts.

Who is Terry Jones?

Jones is a native of Cape Girardeau, Missouri and was born in October 1951. Jones received no academic degree in theology but was given an honorary degree from the unaccredited California Graduate School of Theology in 1983, which now seeks to disassociate itself from him.

In 2002, Jones was fined $3800 by a Cologne court for falsely using the title “doctor” when all he had was an honorary degree from an unaccredited school. And according to the German Evangelical Alliance, Jones was released from the leadership of the Christliche Gemeinde Köln in 2008 due to his indefensible theological statements and his craving for attention and fraud. A leader of the Cologne church said that Jones, “didn’t project the biblical values and Christianity, but always made himself the center of everything.” German press agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported that church members said Jones ran the Cologne church like a sect leader and used psychological pressure on members, “subordinating all activities to his will.”

In addition to the church, the Dove World Outreach Center maintains an unaccredited boarding school, called the “Dove World Outreach Academy”. The Gainesville Sun has resembled the academy to boot camp as students are prohibited to have family contact from outside, including attendance at family weddings and funerals. They also work without compensation, selling, packing, and shipping furniture for TS and Company, a business owned by Sylvia Jones, wife of Terry Jones.

In 2009, Terry Jones posted a lawn sign which stated in large red letters “Islam is of the Devil” which also became the title of a book published by Jones in 2010. The signs drew protests by local activists and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR responded to another sign which read, “Koran 9:5 Kill the disbelievers wherever you find them.” saying the quote was out of context, and aimed at antagonizing Muslims.

Outcome of the burning

A peaceful protest on April 1st ended up in a bloody attack when 8 people were killed when a group of mob started to attack the UN building in the city of Mazar-e Sharif. There were also many Afghans killed and injured in the protests that have continued every day in Kandahar. To this, Terry Jones has answered that the Church is startled by the outcome but doesn’t feel responsible. The western leaders haven’t said much in order to not give Terry Jones more publicity and attention, but everyone is exited waiting for what will be said and done. Obama has already condemned and referred to the episode as “an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry.” President Karzai did also condemn the episode of burning and the attack on the UN compound but the Afghans is not satisfied as they feel they have been violated in the worst thinkable way. The outcome which was expected & feared by the concerned corners has now resulted in much shame for the west which though always preaches its own terms for peace now left with no reasons to act as a centre for justice & peace of the world. The incidents like Quran Burning & its Trail by Pastor Terry Jones will just increase the already widen fault line where as publicizing these incidents & instead of preventing these events if we promote them & avoid reforming our ideological patterns then fighting for democracy, peace & human rights will be a cheating to the world of innocent people who needs the guidance of our leaders to show them the true path for peace & love, sermon for killing Terry Jones will only give rise to hatred & will promote these events which in reality should not happen & must be prevented by all means & by all religions

Freedom of speech

In a democratic society, burning the Quran goes under the freedom of expression and not something that can be prosecuted in court. The caricatures done several years ago were the symbol of the same; to spread hate and discrimination and violating people’s faith, but the burning of the Quran now was done to offend and nothing else. I have always supported the freedom of speech but freedom of speech does not mean that you can insult other religions, cultures or ethnicities. My common sense tells me that I don’t have to agree with everybody, but I must respect others. It’s very sad that innocent people have to suffer because of an ignorant and extremist man who doesn’t consider the safety of others but rather wishes to have attention. USA must also understand that these kinds of stunts does put US’s image lower in the rest of the world and makes them more isolated and target for terrorist attacks. One ignorant man that doesn’t know what he is doing will cost many innocent people their lives.

So what is the benefit of burning the Quran? Did it make Islam vanish? Did it help him in the cause of “fighting Islam,” or evil as Terry Jones likes to refer to Islam as. If Terry Jones had been a Christian man, he would never have insulted a religion with almost 1.5-1.6 billion followers. Christianity is also a peaceful religion that pursues peace and not hate like Jones do. Christianity does not insult other faiths but gives a message to love with your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. If he instead of turning on a great turmoil in the world, had tried to pursue towards peace and understanding in a time where people easily gets divided, he would have earned more and probably get the fame he so deeply desired.

In today’s world there is an urgent need for theological reforms in all the religious ideologies & various schools of thought where just only brainwashed fundamentalism exists. The organizations like Dove World Outreach Centre, Madarsas, Institutions & the representatives should think that if someone is doing wrong & is been hurt then they should come forward to aid him not retaliate in a negative manner which not only disturbs the nations image but also puts a big question mark on the efforts of the peaceful & affected corners of the world where even a minor spark of negativism ignites the emotions of the people & puts the lives in danger not only of the locals but also lives of those who are just doing their but to make this world a peaceful place to live. Now the west & east should also initiate a reform process in its Church & Imam system as if they dictate & support reforms across the world & intervene in the national policies of each other’s then they must first rectify the overall theological system of them which has been affected by their own neo external affairs policies & approach.

Churches & Madarsas are the institutions for our respected religions that have never taught violence & have always promoted peace while asking their followers to preach the message of love & harmony not hatred. So, it’s the duty of every human to promote peace & to bring those people to trail who are affecting our society with their orthodox ideologies which do not have any place neither in any religion nor in the world.  If we support freedom of speech as the right for every human then we should also respect that where bearing a responsibility of our own perceptions which not only sour the peace bowl but disturbs the brotherhood of the social nature. Hate speeches & events which support hatred as their core must be prevented or if possible stopped by the authorities responsible for maintaining law n order including those who know of their existence. If something did wrong or gone unjustified by other than it should not be retaliate in the same manner. If our leaders talks about global multicultural society then it is also their duty to protect the dignity of one’s personal society which is free from the dirt of all the radical ideology of orthodox sentiments with no means to serve for the society of their own, creates a world of discrimination which quenches the thirst with the blood of innocent peace makers. Voice is free but not the thoughts which if exposed turns out to be a disaster, so just calms your mind & sees through hearts let see the world with a peaceful thought where there is no violence, hatred & class but just the Almighty which showed always the brighter path.

Aga Khan

Origin: Though there are several paths (tariqah) within the Ismāʿīlīs, the term in today’s vernacular generally refers to the Nizari path, which recognizes the Aga Khan IV as the 49th hereditary Imam and is the largest group among the Ismāʿīlīs (Shia Islam).The Ismailis’ stronghold of Alamut – Iran which had warded off several Sunni offensives including one by Salah ad Din Yusuf ibn Ayyubi (Saladin), soon meet destruction in 1206 by Genghis Khan who led his Mongol hordes across Central Asia into the Middle-East where they won a series of tactical military victories using a scorched-earth policy. His son, Hulagu Khan, led the devastating attack on Alamut in 1256, before sacking the Abbasid Caliphate in Beghdad in 1258, Healso devastated the House of Wisdom in Beghdad & destroyed the Ismailias well as Islamic religious texts. The Imamate that was located in Alamut along with its few followers were forced to flee and take refuge elsewhere. When the Nizari Imams still lived in Iran the honorific title of Agha Khan was bestowed upon Aga Hasan Ali Shah, the 46th Imam of the Ismailis, by Fatih Ali Shah Qajar, The Shah of Persia. The title combines the Turkish military title Agha meaning noble or lord with the Altaic title Khan for a local ruler, which combinly means Commanding Chief. In Persia where under Qajar court protocol, Khan (& Amir) was common part of commanders of armed forces & a provincial tribal leaders which ranked fourth in precedence amongst the eight title classes for non – members of the dynasty. It is the longest & un – disputed muslim dynasty which claims its roots to Imam Ali & his wife Fatima as Zahra (daughter of Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h).

First Aga Khan & Start of Princely Era: When Hassan Ali Shah, the first Aga Khan came to Sindh from Afghanistan, he and his army were welcomed by Mir Nasir Khan of Sindh. The military assistance provided by Agha Khan I to General Nott in Kandhar Province & also to General England in his advance from Sindh to join Nottduring the latter stages of the Afghan War in 1841 & 1842 & rendering to Sir Charles Napier in his conquest of Sindh in 1843 – 44, the British Empire provided Agha Khan with rank & nobility. In 1887 he was started receiving pension for his services & alliance with British Raj. He was then awarded his ‘princely status’ by the British Government of India & became the only religious or community leader in British India granted a personal gun salute as all other salute dynasties were either rulers of Princely States or Political Pensioners holding ancestral titles in states abolished by Britishers.

List of Ismailis who held the Agha Khan title

  1. Aga Khan I = Hasan Ali Shah Mehalatee Aga Khan I (1800–1881), 46th Imam (1817–1881)
  2. Aga Khan II = Ali Shah Aga Khan II (about 1830–1885), 47th Imam (12 April 1881–1885)
  3. Aga Khan III = Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah (1877-1957), 48th Imam (17 August 1885–1957)
  4. Aga Khan IV = Prince Karim Al Husseini (b. 1936), 49th Imam of the Ismailis (11 July 1957–present)

The 49th Imam of Ismailis: Karim al Hussaini became the present Aga Khan IV upon assuming the Imamat of the Ismailis on July 11, 1957 at the age of 20, succeeding his grandfather, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan (Aga Khan III). In his will, his grandfather stated the conditions that led him to select his grandson as successor to the Ismaili Imamat, thus bypassing his father, Prince Aly Khān, and his uncle, Prince Sadruddin Āgā Khān, who were in direct line of succession. In his will, the Agha KhanIII explained the rationale for choosing his eldest grandson as his successor:

In view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world in very recent years due to the great changes that have taken place, including the discoveries of atomic science, I am convinced that it is in the best interests of the Ismaili community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age, and who brings a new outlook on life to his office.

Family: Prince Karim Aga Khan IV is the 49th Ismaili Imam, claiming lineage to Ali, cousin of Muhammad, and his wife Fatimah, Muhammad’s daughter. Who was born in Geneva – Switzerland on December13, 1936.  He was married two times. His first wife was HH Begum Salima Aga Khan (formerly Sarah (Sally) Croker-Poole), he had three children from her namely: Princess Zahra Aga Khan (b. September 18, 1970), Prince Rahim Aga Khan (b. October 12, 1971), Prince Hussain Aga Khan (b. April 10, 1974). He got married to his second wife HH Begum Inaara Aga Khan ((formerly Dr Gabriele Princess of Leiningen (née Gabriele Thyssen)) who gave birth to his fourth child named: Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan (b. March 7, 2000). The title His Highness was granted by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in 1957, and His Royal Highness by the Shah of Iran in 1959. On July 11, 2007, Aga Khan IV completed 50 years of the imamat of the Ismaili community.The Agha Khan has sometimes been referred to by Ismailis as the Imam of the Atomic Age. He is the most decorated person in the world as his honors, awards, decorations stand apart from many historical leaders of the world. He had been honored & awarded by most of the countries of the world spanning almost throughout the globe. The latest Honors, Decorations, Awards of Aga Khan IV are:

1)       Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, France (2010)

2)       Honorary Doctorate of Divinity, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, (2009) (He is the first Muslim in the World to be conferred with this degree in the university’s 800 year history. “The Honorary Doctorate of Divinity is awarded to individuals who have made a global impact through their religious leadership,” said Tim Winter, Academic Secretary in the Faculty of Divinity. “I am delighted that His Highness the Aga Khan, whose charitable and spiritual leadership has a truly worldwide reach, and whose support for scholarship has impacted profoundly on Islamic Studies, should have been chosen for this well-deserved honour.” Hazar Imam was among ten eminent individuals who were presented with honorary doctorates by the Chancellor of the University, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. Other recipients included Baroness Shirley Williams, Professor and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, who together established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation).

3)       One of The 500 Most Influential Muslims in the world, by Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, Amman, Jordan (2010)

The Aga Khan, heir to the family fortune and a society figure, is founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the largest private development networks in the world. AKDN continues to work with a variety of African and Asian countries to improve living conditions and promote education. For instance, in Afghanistan the AKDN has mobilised over $750 million in development projects. In 1979, the Aga Khan also established the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to promote the study of Islamic art, architecture, urbanism, landscape design, and conservation – and the application of that knowledge to contemporary design projects.The program engages in research at both institutions and students can graduate with a Master of Science of Architectural Studies specializing in the Aga Khan program from MIT’s Department of Architecture. The Agha Khanhas described his role as Imam as being a guide to Ismailis in the daily practice of Shia Islam, a duty which requires an understanding of Ismailis and their relationship with their geographic location and their time. He elaborated on this concept in a 2006 speech in Germany stating,

The role and responsibility of an Imam, respectively, to interpret their religion to his community, and to do his utmost to improve the quality, and security of their quotidien.

This engagement is not limited to the Ismaili community but also extends to the people with whom the Ismailis share their lives, locally and internationally.

During the Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy, he said: “I have two reactions to the pope’s lecture: There is my concern about the degradation of relations and, at the same time, I see an opportunity. A chance to talk about a serious, important issue: the relationship between religion and logic”.

The Aga Khan has expressed concern about the work of the AKDN being described as philanthropy. In his address to the Tutzing Evangelical Academy in Germany, he described this concern:

Reflecting a certain historical tendency of the West to separate the secular from the religious, they often describe [the work of the AKDN] either as philanthropy or entrepreneurship. What is not understood is that this work is for us a part of our institutional responsibility — it flows from the mandate of the office of Imam to improve the quality of worldly life for the concerned communities.

He is among the few elite who are listed as the most busiest dignitartories of the world. He is regularly visited by so many state leaders from all corners of the world that even the President of US did not get to meet. He has a great passion for Horse breeding & racing & to live his passion & enjoy it he owns plush & some of the largest stud farms & breeding centres in Europe. His Aiglemont estate, at Gouvieux in the Picardie region of France, about 4 kilometres west of the Chantilly Racecourse, where he operates the largest horse racing and breeding operation in the country. The Aga Khan owns Gilltown Stud near Kilcullen, Ireland and Haras de Bonneval breeding farm at Le Mesnil-Mauger in France. In March 2005, he purchased the famous Calvados stud farms, the Haras d’Ouilly in Pont-d’Ouilly and the Haras de Val-Henry in Livarot. In 2006, the Aga Khan became the majority shareholder of Arqana, a French horse auction house. On October 27, 2009 it was announced that the Epsom Derby (Eng-G1), Coral Eclipse Stakes (Eng-G1), Juddmonte International Stakes (Eng-G1), Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-G1), and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Sea The Stars will stand stud at the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud in Ireland.

Turkey. A role model for Egypt?

Turkey is regarded as a model for a regime that will strengthen the democracy, but the differences between the two countries are large. There are two large and important non Arab Muslim majority countries in the Middle East; Turkey and Iran. The possibility that the revolution in Egypt would provide the Muslim Brotherhood increased influence has led to fears in the neighboring countries that it would end up with an extremist Islamic regime just like in Iran.

The Origin

Turkey and Egypt was once a part of the Ottoman Empire, but ever after it collapsed at the time of First World War, the development of the two countries has turned different directions.

The Egyptian constitution states that “Islam is the State religion” and that “The most important basis for the legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).” The Turkish constitution on the other hand states that the country is a secular, non-religious republic, and the basis for the state’s population. The modern day’s Turkey’s founder; Mustafa Kemal Atatürk wanted to create a modern nation. One of the examples is that the traditional headscarf was prohibited in public places and the Arabic alphabet was replaced with the Latin alphabet. The military was tasked by the government in 1961 to protect the Turkish republic’s integrity and secularism as described in the constitution something the army takes very seriously.

Sole ruler

Both under Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar al-Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, Egypt as a modern state has been characterized by sole ruler to a limited extend and haven’t allowed political oppositions. Nasser was a charismatic leader and Mubarak was a leader with not much support but with a determination to rule as long as possible. Despite all the differences, we can speak about Turkey as a model because of its bright developments over the past 10 years.

The road to democratization

After being a candidate in the EU in 1999, the requirement to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria for membership weakened the military’s role in Turkey. The National Security Council, where national security policy issues are discussed, have also been reformed and now consists of more civilian members than before when there was an emphasis on military officers. An attempted military intervention was still made as in 2007 it was revealed that there existed a right-wing military network that was planning a coup.

Since March 2003, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been in power. It is a moderate Islamist party, such as; that wishes to go in for a Turkish EU membership. This kind of moderate form of Islamic rule won’t happen over night in Egypt and if it would happen, then it does need a better functioning multi party system.

Statistic numbers

A survey conducted by the polling institute Pew Research Center before the protest wave began, shows clear differences between Egypt and Turkey. 72% of Turks see democracy as the absolute best form of government. 50% Egyptians do the same. 85% of Egyptians believe it is positive that Islam has an influence in politics and the number in Turkey is only 38%. When it comes to Islamic extremism, 61% of the Egyptians are strongly or partly concerned about it, while in Turkey 40% of Turks feel the same. While 52% of Turks see a conflict between the forces that will modernize the society and the fundamentalists, only 31% of Egyptians think the same. These numbers show that the Egyptians do want religion to play a role, but it gets disturbed by the extremists. In Turkey, the democratic way of thinking is quite strong, and soon 90 years of separation between state and Islam seems to have entrenched themselves. Turkey is an important model not only for Egypt but for the whole Middle East as it appears as a mediator whenever the storm hits its neighbours.

This was proven when President Abdullah Gül was awarded with the 2010 Chatham House Prize in London. Abdullah Gül has been a smooth operator and described as “the first proudly observant Muslim to be head of the secular Turkish state that wants to put an end to mutterings in Western capitals about Turkey’s shift to the East.” He was contributed this prize “for his contribution both to international relations and Turkeys development as a vibrant democratic state.”
While Gül will be remembered for his positive achievements, the Arab leaders will be remembered for their dictatorship, corruption and lack of respect for democracy.

Facts:

  • Turkey;

  • Governance: Republic.
  • Population: 77, 8 million.
  • Capital: Ankara.
  • Important export: Electronics, textile, agriculture products.
  • Economical growth: 4,7 %.
  • Living: Number 83 on UN’s list over 182 countries.
  • Corruption: Number 56 on Transparency s list over 180 countries, where 1 is least corrupt.
  • Surface area: 783.562 sqkms.
  • Egypt

  • Governance: Republic.
  • Population: 80 million.
  • Capital: Cairo.
  • Important export: Oil, cotton, metal products.
  • Economical growth: 4, 6 %.
  • Living: Number 101 on UN’s list over 182 countries.
  • Corruption: Number 98 on Transparency s list over 180 countries, where 1 is least corrupt.
  • Surface: 1 million sqkms.

EID e Milad un Nabi – Importance in Islam

Allahuma salli ala Muhammadin wa – ala – Ale Muhammad

O God! Shower thy blessings on Muhammad and the descendants of Muhammad


Introduction: Eid-e-Milad is celebrated in the memory of Prophet Muhammed. The Holy Prophet was born on the twelfth day of Rabi-ul-Awwal in 570 C.E Saudi Arabia, Mecca. Rabi-ul-Awwal is the third month of the Muslim year. Eid-e-Milad is both, a time to rejoice and a time to mourn, since the Prophet passed away on the same day.

History of Celebration: The tradition of celebrating the Holy Prophet’s birthday on a large scale began in Egypt by the Prophet’s descendants, through his daughter Fatima. It was celebrated mainly by religious scholars and religious establishments. They gathered to hear sermons, distributed sweets, alms and particularly honey, the Prophet’s favorite.

Maulid: Eid-e-Milad is also called Maulid, since it is Prophet Muhammed’s Eid andthe song sung in praise of the Prophet’s birth is called a Maulud. From the Middle Ages, it was believed that, listening to the recitation of Maulud has not only worldly but heavenly rewards too.The earliest accounts for the observance of Mawlid can be found in eighth-century Mecca, when the house in which Muhammad was born was transformed into a place of prayer by Al-Khayzuran (mother of Harun al-Rashid, the fifth and most famous Abbasid caliph). The early celebrations included elements of Sufic influence, with animal sacrifices and torchlight processions along with public sermons and a feast. The practice spread throughout the Muslim world, assimilating local customs, to places such as Cairo, where folklore and Sufic practices greatly influenced the celebrations. By 1588 it had spread to the court of Murad III, Sultan of the Ottoman empire. In 1910, it was given official status as a national festival throughout the Ottoman empire. Today it is an official holiday in many parts of the world.

Barah Wafat: This festival is also referred to as, ‘Barah Wafat’ which stands for the twelve days of sickness of the Prophet, before he passed away. The day is for both mourning and celebrating. The Sunni sect and the Shia sect have a different take on the ways of celebrating of this day.

Celebrations by Shia Muslims: Shia Muslims celebrate this day to remember that Prophet Muhammed chose Hazrat Ali as his successor at Gadhir-e-Khumm. This occasion symbolises the Habillah (the chain of imamat or the next leader). Eid-e-Milad and Eid-al-Gadhir are two names for marking the same day, for two different reasons.

Eid-e-Milad or Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi – This name is used to mark the Prophet’s birth and death anniversary.

Eid-al-Gadhir – This name is used to mark the handing over of the spiritual rein to Hazrat Ali at Gadhir-e-Khumm. (The route between Syria and Yemen)

On this day, believers gather to recite special prayers for thanksgiving to Allah for his favours and sending Prophet Muhammed to the world, with his message to guide the people. People attend lectures and recitations on the Life and Instructions of the Holy Prophet. Poetry or Naats are recited after prayers and sweets are distributed amongst the poor.

Shia Muslims also mourn on this day as it is also the day when the Holy Prophet passed away.

Bohra Muslims: a part of the Shia sect, too celebrate the twelve days of Rabi-ul-Awwal with prayers and by listening to recitals. Prayers are conducted in mosques for all twelve days. Many Bohras perform Zyarat (a form of prayer that is performed as a meeting with the one you are praying to).

Celebrations by Sunni Muslims: Prayers are held throughout the month. On the twelfth day of the month Muslims remember the Holy Prophet and his teachings. Mourning on this day is not practiced at all because according the Sunni Muslims believe that mourning for the dead beyond three days hurts the departed soul.

In South Asia, people carry out processions chanting praises of the Holy Prophet and Imam Hazrat Ali. These processions are decorated with fruits, flowers or even scenes depicting religious sites, episodes and figures. The sweet dish ‘Kheer’ (sweet porridge made of rice) is prepared as a tradition in Muslim homes. Among non-Muslim countries, India is noted for its Mawlid festivities. The relics of Muhammed are displayed after the morning prayers in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir at Hazratbal shrine, on the outskirts of Srinagar. Shab-khawani night-long prayers held at the Hazratbal shrine are attended by thousands. In Pakistan’s Mawlid celebration, the national flag is hoisted on all public buildings, and a 31 gun salute in the federal capital and a 21 gun salute at the provincial headquarters are fired at dawn. The cinemas shows religious rather than secular films on 11th and 12th Rabi-ul-Awwal. Whereas in Saudi Arabia & Middle – east prayers are held, sweets are prepared and the Prophet is remembered through his words. Saudi Arabia is the only Muslim country where Mawlid is not an official public holiday. Participation in the ritual celebration of popular Islamic holidays is seen as an expression of the Islamic revival.

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