Archive for July 2009
By Yohan Perera
The Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) is to meet internet service providers to discus how to block porn websites in Sri Lanka.
TRC director general Priyantha Kariyapperuma said he would have to work out some of the technical issues connected to the blocking of such sites.
Mr. Kariyapperuma assured that there would not be any restrictions on viewing other websites adding that the TRC would seek help from the Colombo University School of Computing to design some mechanism to block the porn sites.
Meanwhile the government is also planning to ban private school students from taking mobile phones into schools. This ban already applies to students attending government schools.
Mr. Kariyapperuma said the TRC hoped to set up phone booths in schools as an alternative to mobile phones so that the children could use them in an emergency.
Officials earlier conducted an in-depth study on these porn web sites before submitting a comprehensive report to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The President later instructed Police Chief Jayantha Wickremeratne to take tough measures against this spreading menace and to take into custody any one found posting on the internet nude or semi nude photographs and video clips of unsuspecting people, especially minors and women.
Based on a Supreme Court order last week, action was taken to ban 12 porn websites
The Bambalapitiya Police took into custody a doctor and two women for running a brothel under the guise of a massage clinic.
They were released on cash bail of Rs. 20,000 and a personal bail of Rs. 200,000 each by the Mt. Lavinia Additional Magistrate Darshika Wimalasiri. They were also ordered to appear at the Bambalapitiya Police on Sundays of every month between 9 am and 12 noon.
The case was put off for September 23.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sacked one of his ministers, a day after he was forced to cancel the appointment of his vice-president.
No reason was given for the sacking of Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie.
Meanwhile, the culture minister quit, saying the government was weakened.
The president is due to announce a new cabinet after he is sworn in for a second term in 10 days’ time, following a disputed election victory.
Amid the turmoil, Mr Ahmadinejad’s office also denied reports that three other ministers were sacked.
One of those reported dismissed, Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi, said he was resigning because of the confused reports.
“Unfortunately due to the recent events which shows the esteemed government’s weakness, I will no longer consider myself the minister of culture and will not show up at the ministry as of tomorrow,” he said in a letter of resignation carried by the Fars news agency.
Mr Ahmadinejad’s decision to give up on the appointment of his First Vice-President, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, was prompted by the publication of a letter from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei telling him his choice was unacceptable.
On Saturday, however, Mr Ahmadinejad appointed Mr Mashaie as his chief of staff, setting up another potential confrontation with conservatives.
Mr Mashaie had angered hardliners last year by saying Iranians and Israelis were friends.
Source: BBC News
Berlin, (HRW): German state bans on religious symbols and clothing for teachers and other civil servants discriminate against Muslim women who wear the headscarf, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released today.
The 67-page report, “Discrimination in the Name of Neutrality: Headscarf Bans for Teachers and Civil Servants in Germany,” is based on extensive research over an eight-month period. It analyzes the human rights implications of the bans and their effect on the lives of Muslim women teachers, including those who have been employed for many years. It says that the bans have caused some women to give up their careers or to leave Germany, where they have lived all their lives.
“These laws in Germany clearly target the headscarf, forcing women who wear it to choose between their jobs and their religious beliefs,” said Haleh Chahrokh, researcher in the Europe and Central Asia division at Human Rights Watch. “They discriminate on the grounds of both gender and religion and violate these women’s human rights.”
Half of Germany’s 16 states (Lنnder) – Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Saarland – have laws prohibiting public school teachers (and other civil servants in several states) from wearing the headscarf at work. The laws were all introduced in the last five years, following a 2003 Constitutional Court ruling that restrictions on religious dress are only permissible if explicitly laid down in law. The other eight German states have no such restrictions.
Some of the laws allow some exemptions for Christian and “Western” cultural traditions. None of the laws explicitly target the headscarf, but parliamentary debates and official explanatory documents prior to their introduction make clear that the headscarf is the focus. Every court case about the restrictions (the most recent ruling was on January 26, 2009, on a case in Baden-Württemberg) has concerned the headscarf issue.
“The claim that these restrictions don’t discriminate doesn’t stand up,” said Chahrokh, “In practice, the only people affected by them are Muslim women who wear the headscarf.”
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly criticized governments such as Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran when they force women to wear religious clothing. But laws such as those in German states, which exclude women who wear the headscarf from public employment, run afoul of the same international standards, undercutting women’s autonomy, their right to privacy, self expression and religious freedom in a similar way.
The research for the report included interviews with Muslim women in Germany affected by the ban. It documents the profound effect of the bans on women’s lives. The laws in all eight states effectively prohibit women who wear the headscarf from working as teachers. Teachers wearing the headscarf have been told to remove it and have been subject to disciplinary action if they refused.
If a teacher refuses to remove her headscarf and subsequently is unsuccessful in court proceedings, she runs the risk of losing her civil servant status and of being removed from her teaching position. Muslim trainee teachers cannot find employment as public school teachers after successful completion of their education unless they remove their headscarves.
State officials justify the restrictions on the basis that teachers have a duty to ensure that schools remain neutral on questions of religion and ideology. But there is no evidence that the teachers’ conduct violated that duty. Instead, the bans are based on the notion that merely wearing the headscarf places neutrality at risk.
“People should be judged on the basis of their conduct, not views imputed to them by virtue of a religious symbol they wear,” said Chahrokh. “If there are concrete concerns about individuals, they should be addressed through ordinary disciplinary procedures, on a case-by-case basis.”
Some of the teachers affected told Human Rights Watch that they had offered to wear alternatives to the headscarf, such as large hats, or to tie the scarves in atypical styles, but that these offers were rejected. As a result of the bans, some of the women left their home states or Germany altogether, while others felt compelled to remove their headscarf to keep their jobs, after years of studies and investment in developing their skills. They complained of feeling alienated and excluded, even though many have lived in Germany all their lives.
Proponents of restrictions on the headscarf frequently argue that bans protect women from oppression and empower them. The women interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they had all freely chosen to wear the headscarf. Even for women who are pressed to wear a headscarf, but are able to become teachers, blocking access to their profession will not protect them from oppression. Some affected women pointed out that, far from empowering them, the bans had led to deterioration in their social position. In the words of one woman: “As long as we were cleaning in schools, nobody had a problem with the headscarf.”
Human Rights Watch calls on state governments to revise and repeal legislation on prohibition of religious dress and symbols and ensure that their legislation and procedures comply with Germany’s international human rights obligations. The German states should guarantee in particular that regulations do not discriminate on grounds of gender or religion and that freedom of religion and expression are fully protected.
Source: Muslim News
KUNDUZ, Afghanistan (Reuters) – One of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s vice presidential running mates in next month’s elections escaped unhurt from an ambush by Taliban insurgents on Sunday, officials said.
Mohammad Qasim Fahim, the former head of an alliance that toppled the Taliban in 2001, was ambushed on a road in northern Kunduz province where he was campaigning on Karzai’s behalf for the August 20 poll, said senior campaign official Zalmai Mujadidi.
Kunduz governor Mohammad Omar said Fahim was traveling by road to the adjacent Takhar province on Sunday afternoon when his convoy was attacked by insurgents.
“Fahim is alive and fine,” Omar told Reuters in Kunduz, adding that one of Fahim’s bodyguards had been wounded.
Kunduz security official Commander Abdulrazak Yaqubi said an unknown number of insurgents used automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades in the attack. Some of the insurgents were killed in a counter-attack by security forces, he said.
Fahim, an ethnic Tajik and once a leading opposition figure, was nominated by Karzai as one of two vice presidential running mates in May as Karzai sought to solidify fragmenting support by drawing former opponents into his re-election campaign.
It was the second attack on a candidate in less than a week.
On Wednesday, Mullah Salam Rocketi, a former Taliban commander and now one of 38 candidates challenging Karzai, was also ambushed as he returned to Kabul after campaigning in northern Baghlan on Wednesday.
Rocketi — who took his name because of his liking for firing rocket-propelled grenades at occupying Soviet troops — was also unhurt.
The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the latest attack on Fahim, a former deputy leader and defense minister under Karzai.
“We killed four of Fahim’s bodyguards,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
International observers have identified poor security, especially in Taliban strongholds in the south, as one of the main stumbling blocks confronting the poll, Afghanistan’s second direct vote for president.
Attacks across the country have increased since thousands of U.S. Marines and British troops launched major operations in Helmand province in the south earlier this month.
Fahim survived another attempt on his life while he was campaigning in the eastern city of Jalalabad during the 2004 election campaign.
Karzai is a clear front-runner in the election despite appearing to fall out of favor at home and in some Western capitals earlier this year.
He has drawn criticism abroad for forming alliances with former warlords. Both Fahim and Karzai’s other running mate, ethnic Hazara Karim Khalili, once headed guerrilla groups.
Karzai was also widely criticized for failing to appear in a televised debate against his two main rivals — former cabinet ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani — on Thursday.
Abdullah on Sunday staged a rally attended by about 3,000 in Charikar, near the U.S. military’s sprawling Bagram
|By Wahdat Afghan|
The Palestinian Ministry of Detainees reported that the Israeli army kidnapped more than 380 Palestinians in several parts of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem during the month of June.
The ministry added that the army also kidnapped four Egyptians in the Negev after claiming that they crossed the border and entered a military base.
Hundreds of Palestinian workers were also detained in the Green Line as the Israeli Police claimed they were working there without permits.
Riyadh Al Ashqar, head of the Media Department at the Ministry, stated that last month witnessed a significant escalation in Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip, and that the soldiers kidnapped sixteen fishermen.
He added that Israeli security personnel interrogated the fishermen and tried to blackmail them by telling them that they would be allowed to fish in Gaza’s territorial waters should they collaborate and spy for Israel in Gaza.
The minister added that, for the first time, soldiers detained a four-year old child, identified as Mohammad Mousa, after claiming that he hurled stones at police vehicles in Jerusalem. 31 residents, including three children below 12, were detained in Hizma village, near Jerusalem.
The army also kidnapped three women, and tortured one of them at the Atara roadblock, north of Ramallah.
The tortured woman was identified as Nahed Farhat, from Ramallah; the soldiers kicked her, dragged her on the ground and punched her before blindfolding and cuffing her, and took her to a detention facility.
Soldiers also broke into the home of female legislator, Dr. Mariam Saleh, searched the property and kidnapped her son Salah after kicking and punching him and his brother.
Troops confiscated the legislator’s mobile phone and some private documents.
In its report, the Ministry said that Israeli courts issued more than 220 administrative detention orders and imposed high fines on dozens of detainees.
Troops broke into several detention facilities, searched the rooms and attacked a number of detainees.
An Arabic term used to describe the creation of Israel as a “catastrophe” will be banned from school books for Arab Israelis, Education Minister Gideon Saar said Tuesday.
“The decision to integrate this idea into teaching for Arab Israelis several years ago constitutes an error that will be corrected in the next school books currently being prepared,” the minister said in a statement.
“There is no reason to present the creation of the Israeli state as a catastrophe in an official teaching program. The education system’s objective is not to deny the legitimacy of our state, nor promote extremism among Arab Israelis.”
A law has also been proposed to withhold government money from any state-supported institutions that fund activity deemed detrimental to the state such as the commemorating Naqba and “rejecting Israel’s existence as the state of the Jewish people” and supporting “armed struggle or terrorist acts” against Israel.
An initial version proposed by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman would have banned all Naqba commemorations and carried sentences of up to three years in prison.
On Sunday, a ministerial committee approved the bill, clearing the way for its presentation to parliament for future debate and voting.
Leaders of the Israeli Arab community have been outspoken in rejecting any definition of Israel as a Jewish state and in supporting their Palestinian brethren’s statehood aspirations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.