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  1. Defying Doom

    It is heartwarming to know people will be voting freely for the first time in their lives. More power to those brave souls as they work to bring Iraq into this century politically, religiously, emotionally, educationally. That is freedom. Peace "http://nypost/php/pfriendly/pfriendly.php?url=/postopinion/opedcolumnists/39144.htm"]link[/url] DEFYING DOOM By PETER BROOKES THERE are those out there  and you know who you are  more interested in seeing the Bush administration fail in Iraq than in seeing democracy succeed. Sorry, oracles of doom: You're about to be disappointed. A just-released poll by the National Endowment for Democracy's highly-respected International Republican Institute (IRI) suggests that Sunday's Iraqi elections will be much more successful than the nattering nabobs of negativity predict. IRI conducted the poll Dec. 26 to Jan. 7 in 16 (of 18) Iraqi provinces. It shows that "anticipated participation numbers among Iraqis remain consistent [with previous polls], with over 80 percent stating that they are very likely or somewhat likely to vote on Jan. 30." Contrast that 80 percent turnout with our own 60 percent turnout last November  America's highest since 1968. There's more: The survey also indicates that more than half of all Iraqis living in the troubled Sunni areas  and nearly half of the Sunnis, themselves  are "likely" or "somewhat likely" to vote. In other words, despite the violence, Iraq's Sunni minority will ultimately decide it's better to be inside the tent than outside when the new national assembly drafts a constitution later this year. In addition, nearly half of those polled (45 percent) say they now support or identify strongly with a political party running in the election, a threefold increase since May. The survey also relates that: "Iraqis remain optimistic about the future of their country as they anticipate their first post-Saddam democratic elections." Some 52 percent said they think the country will be better off in six months. And 60 percent expect conditions to improve in a year. Even more (65 percent) are optimistic about Iraq five years out. And though security remains a critical issue, the economy is growing in importance. The survey found that the government is "credited with improving salaries and the overall economic environment." Just staging this national election will be a tremendous success in itself. The Iraqis are defiant in the face of the insurgency: * Even under constant insurgent and terrorist threat, more than 7,500 candidates from as many as 111 political parties will run for 275 National Assembly seats and 18 provincial councils. * Nearly 100,000 police and soldiers will guard as many as 6,000 polling stations in a country the size of California. * 12 million Iraqis, including women, out of 14 million eligible, have registered to vote during the heat of an insurgency. * 1.2 million Iraqis may vote from abroad in 14 countries, including as many as 230,000 in America alone. Now, this is all promising news, a ray of sunshine bursting through the dark clouds of the insurgency. But no one is going to tell you that Sunday's process will be perfect. Frustrating these elections may well be the last hope for insurgents and terrorists in Iraq. The latest tape from al Qaeda's Abu Musab al Zarqawi just confirms what we already knew: They're sure to give it their evil all  marring the voting with maximum violence and widespread carnage if possible. The absence of the United Nations - and the failure of many nations to join the Coalition  as Iraqis go to the polls is as dramatic as it is disappointing. Even though the election is a U.N. mandate, only about 25 U.N. staff (and no European Union personnel) are in Iraq to provide pre-election technical assistance. There's still some heavy lifting to do as well. Now's the time for the Coalition to press the offensive  the best way to delay, hinder or prevent the terrorists' schemes to kill innocents and disrupt the elections. We must turn up the volume on our public diplomacy, too. The U.S.-funded Arabic-language TV channel al Hurra (Arabic for "The Free One") is already playing a key role by giving airtime to Iraqi candidates, and making election-related public-service announcements. Washington must also call upon Muslim leaders everywhere to encourage Iraqis to vote. Most of them won't do so, seeing it as counter to their own repressive interests. But the people of the Muslim world, deserving political reform, should hear their silence. The first (real) democratic elections in Iraqi history will set another precedent for the Middle East. They'll serve as yet another reminder, like Afghanistan, that democracy, Islam and the Muslim world are indeed compatible. This is just a beginning. And despite the self-serving, misguided hopes of some that the U.S. and its partners fail  the Iraqis and the Coalition are likely to pull this darned election off. Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow. E-mail: peterbrookes[at]heritage
  2. FBI showing it's true colors

    If the man qualifies for a public defender (financial status is the criteria), mansoor, the court has to appoint public legal counsel for him and a Public Defender's office cannot refuse him a qualified defense .. city, district, state or federal, whichever court his case falls under. For instance, if the FBI is involved it may eventually fall under federal but you said something about a state attorney so maybe a decision as to which court it comes under hasn't been made yet. There must be more to the situation than meets the eye because court appointed legal defense cannot reject a client. Has the family contacted the ACLU or People for the American Way? Both those organisations defend the legal rights of people in America. Both have reliable web sites you can use for information. Each state has at least one ACLU office (usually in the state capitol) but they tend to respond faster by phone and snail mail if they are given the correct information. If the man is totally indigent and neither of the above can help or at least look into if it's true he hasn't had representation so far, look in the phone book for the NJ attorneys association (whatever name it goes by there); call and ask for a list of local attorneys who take pro bona cases .. most lawyers allow for some pro bono work. Good luck. Peace
  3. Possible Hate Crime

    'ISLAMIC HATE' EYED IN SLAYS By DOUGLAS MONTERO and STEFAN C. FRIEDMAN The father of a murdered New Jersey family was threatened for making anti-Muslim remarks online  and the gruesome quadruple slaying may have been the hateful retaliation, sources told The Post yesterday. Hossam Armanious, 47, who along with his wife and two daughters was found stabbed to death in his Jersey City home early Friday, would regularly debate religion in a Middle Eastern chat room, one source said. Armanious, an Egyptian Christian, was well known for expressing his Coptic beliefs and engaging in fiery back-and-forth with Muslims on the Web site paltalk. He "had the reputation for being one of the most outspoken Egyptian Christians," said the source, who had close ties to the family. The source, who had knowledge of the investigation, refused to specify the anti-Muslim statement. But he said cops told him they were looking into the exchanges as a possible motive. The married father of two had recently been threatened by Muslim members of the Web site, said a fellow Copt and store clerk who uses the chat room. "You'd better stop this bull---- or we are going to track you down like a chicken and kill you," was the threat, said the clerk, who was online at the time and saw the exchange. But Armanious refused to back down, according to two sources who use the Web site. Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy would neither confirm nor deny that cops and prosecutors were looking into the religion motive, saying only that "nothing is being ruled out." But a relative of the mayor who answered the phone at Healy's home said there was information the murders were "religion-related." "There are several theories we are looking into, but we are not commenting on any of them at this time," said Hudson County Assistant Prosecutor Guy Gregory. Armanious' fervor apparently rubbed off on his daughter, Sylvia  who would have turned 16 yesterday. "She was very religious and very opinionated," said Jessica Cimino, 15, a fellow sophomore at Dickenson HS. A family member who viewed photos of the bloodbath said Sylvia seemed to have taken the most savage punishment. "When we saw the pictures, you could tell that they were hurt really, really bad in the face; especially Sylvia," said Milad Garas, the high-school sophomore's great-uncle. The heartless killer not only slit Sylvia's throat, but also sliced a huge gash in her chest and stabbed her in the wrist, where she had a tattoo of a Coptic cross. Also found murdered were the wife, Amal Garas, and the parents' other daughter, Monica. Fred Ayed, the deacon at St. George and St. Shenouda Church, where the deeply religious family attended services, said he's worried that the murders could have a ripple effect. "I am concerned for the safety of our community," said Ayed, who knew Hossam for 30 years. "People are scared because one family was slain like cows," said Moheb Ghabour, publisher of a local newspaper for the Coptic community. Osama Hassan, director of the Islamic Center of Jersey City, described the relationship between Copts and Muslims as cooperative if not friendly. "I think there might be people that can get into physical fights, but not to the point of murder," Hassan said. Both the deacon and uncle poured cold water on the theory that the family were the victims of a robbery gone wrong. "This is not a robbery, Ayed said. "We found all of the jewelry in the house. They didn't take anything." The FBI confirmed it has been called in to help with the case. Additional reporting by Heather Gilmore "http://nypost/news/regionalnews/38704.htm"]Link[/url]
  4. Origins

    Where may I find literary proofs of the origin of and specified use of hijab? Peace
  5. Top executives lose job over Bush comment

    :D :D :D No truer words were ever spoken, mansoor. That comment made my day. Thanks and .... Peace
  6. Tsunami Bridges the Divide

    Another excellent article on bridging the differences between peoples in the face of great diversity and calamity in spirte of the hurdles some try to erect. Underneath, people are the same everywhere. Peace "gulfnews/Articles/OpinionNF.asp?ArticleID=147070"]gulfnews/Articles/OpinionNF...rticleID=147070[/url] Forget the misinterpretations, tsunami bridges the divide By Abdullah Al Madani, Special to Gulf News | 09/01/2005 | At the time when millions in the world were lighting candles, performing prayers or launching relief efforts for the victims of the December 26, 2004 Asian tsunami, a few Arab/Muslim figures and websites were busy debating the disaster's cause and consequences from religious or ideological perspectives. For example, a leading member of the Islamic political current in Jordan had nothing to comment but to state that the disaster was a punishment from God for regimes cooperating with the West in targeting Jihadi groups, arguing that supporting these groups and embracing true Islam would be the only solution to avoid such disastrous events in the future. But he did not explain why the tsunami hit millions of poor, innocent people, who had nothing to do with politics and targeted, in particular, areas known for Muslim insurgencies such as the Indonesian region of Aceh and Thailand's southern provinces. Not far from this opinion, a prominent Saudi cleric had come out with a theory stating that the fact that the tsunami coincided with the celebration of Christmas indicated that God wanted to punish the "Christian crusaders" - who, according to him, use the occasion to host wild, sinful parties. The cleric probably does not know that the great majority of people in tsunami-stricken countries are not Christians. In response to a Malaysian seeking a fatwa on whether it was permissible for Muslims in this extraordinary catastrophic situation to send their Zakat (alms) to non-Muslim victims of the tsunami, an African national professor of jurisprudence at the Malaysia-based International Islamic University opposed the idea. He said that only in the case of the donor being assured that recipients would convert to Islam it might be permissible. What a shameful trade! An Islamic website hastened to correctly brief its visitors on tsunami's history and cause and the method developed to accurately predict it. But this was followed by a map of the Arabian Peninsula with the words "What a miracle" at the top. The covert conclusion here is that the peninsula, unlike other regions, is immune to natural disasters because it hosts Islam's holiest shrines. But has not it been suffering from another form of disaster in recent years, represented by terrorist attacks? Besides, some Arab and Muslim individuals have resorted to conspiracy theories to explain the tsunami. To them, it was a result of Washington secretly conducting massive nuclear tests underneath the Indian Ocean with the aim of hurting rising Asian powers and making it more difficult for them to compete with the United States. Largest relief operation The good news, however, is that the international community, including many Muslim and Arab governments, organisations, and groups, are increasingly showing solidarity with the tsunami-stricken countries through what is described as the largest relief operation in history. Besides, many liberal Arab and Muslim individuals have strongly and indiscriminately voiced their sympathy towards all Asian victims, making the aforementioned ill-judgements worthless. Another good development is that the tsunami tragedy seems to be bridging the divide among ethnic groups in Asia, something that could pave the way for peace and stability in the continent. Examples can be derived from Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand. In Sri Lanka, a country that has been torn for the last 20 years by a civil war between the Tamil minority and the Sinhalese majority, Tamil Tiger rebels and the Colombo government now cooperate with each other in relief works. In an unprecedented move, notorious rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran sent his condolences to the Sinhalese, calling them "our brethren in the south", and urged his militants to cooperate with government forces. In return, President Chandrika Kumaratunga ordered her government and army to work side by side with the rebels, who had acknowledged suffering massive losses, rather than attack or arrest them. In Indonesia, Muslim rebels belonging to the Free Aceh Movement, a group that has been at war with Jakarta since the late 1970s, appear to have lost a lot of cadre and equipment, making them seek cooperation with the government. Jakarta, which had virtually sealed off Aceh to foreigners, opened the region up to foreign civil and military relief operations for the first time. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono hoped that the disaster and the consequent ceasefire declaration by the government would bring the two parties closer and convince the Acehnese guerrillas to lay down their weapons. And in predominantly Buddhist Thailand, where only Muslim southern provinces have been severely hit by the tsunami, government and non-government organisations hastened to collect funds and operate unprecedented relief campaigns. With this, observers believe that tensions between Thai Muslims and central authorities that have worsened in recent months due to Bangkok's security measures against separatist rebels could disappear. Moreover, with humanitarian assistance flowing to devastated countries from the neighbouring Asian states, bilateral and collective relations are expected to strengthen. Malaysia's solidarity with Thailand, for example, could eliminate recent differences between the two neighbours in the background of Bangkok's accusation of Kuala Lumpur being linked to the Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand. Similarly, India's efforts to help badly-affected Sri Lanka despite its own suffering from the tsunami created a greater confidence-building opportunity for the two states, whose relations have been up and down due to the Tamil problem and Colombo's suspicions of New Delhi's regional aspirations. Without negating the dreadful loss of life and hardships that have and will be incurred by many hundreds of thousands, the tsunami has generated what is called earthquake diplomacy, something that could have a profound positive effect on peace and stability in Asia. Let us not forget that it was earthquake diplomacy that led to détente between Turkey and Greece. The August and October 1999 earthquakes in the Turkish Marmara region and Athens, respectively, sparked a wave of solidarity between the two nations. This created a new climate in their bilateral relations that ultimately ended centuries of hostility and mistrust. Abdullah Al Madani is a Bahrain-based Gulf researcher and writer on Asian affairs. He can be contacted at aelmadani[at]gulfnews © Al Nisr Publishing LLC - Gulf News Online | contact editor[at]gulfnews
  7. Your Countries contribution to Tsunamic Disaster

    I have to agree with you, mansoor. There will be many acts of charity unreported here and at large for that reason alone. Suffice it to say that most of humanity is generous and trust that these acts of kindness and compassion will continue regardless. Peace
  8. Forever Looking Without, Never Within

    Hussain certainly has a right to her opinions and that, in itself, is a step in the right direction. That she is allowed to write and publish her opinions w/o retribution or punishment is another step forward. This article of hers is only one of many, especially in the aftermath of the recent tsunami, that looks at the need to dispell the myriad of conspiracy myths that abound. She has a point: people who choose to live in fantasy land are in complete and utter denial of reality. Given that hers is a healthy outlook should not be discounted. Peace
  9. Seems to be a timely article. I hope this lady stays alive after writing this or could this be a sign of needed reforms being undertaken in SA now? Interesting that a woman wrote this too. She's very articulate. Peace "arabnews/services/print/print.asp?artid=57188&d=7&m=1&y=2005&hl=Bane%20of%20the%20Arab%20World:%20Forever%20Looking%20Without,%20Never%20Within"]arabnews/services/print/pri...0Never%20Within[/url] Bane of the Arab World: Forever Looking Without, Never Within Lubna Hussain  The Arab world is teeming with conspiracy theories. Many have built their careers on nurturing mistrust. I am not saying there is no basis whatsoever for such suspicions. After all, just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean you’re not being followed. But wherever I go, I am subjected to an unsolicited recital of how we got into the pitiful state we find ourselves in today. It’s always the Zionists or the Americans or the neocons or the Toms or the Dicks or the Harrys who are to blame for our predicament. We are forever looking without and never within. Interestingly enough it is never we ourselves who are found to be the architects of our own misfortune. I am neither an expert on current affairs nor an intellectual but I find it rather alarming that we devote so much of our precious time and energy to conjuring up hundreds of ridiculous conjectures. Would you like some examples? Heard about the one where someone in our region decided to examine a Coca-Cola bottle in a mirror? This poor soul, who evidently had nothing better to do in life than analyze the reflections of soft-drink containers, made a discovery of such magnitude that it rocked the Arab world. His great contribution to learning and progress became the subject of heated discussions for many subsequent months. He cunningly exposed that, over a hundred years ago, someone in the United States of America, that great bastion of Arabic literature, decided to slander Islam. So, this someone  let’s call him Dwayne, then made his statement using traditional Arabic calligraphy. Dwayne, being a redneck, decided to express his sentiment subversively. He took his statement, wrote it backward and went into partnership with a small-time five-and-dime guy who was just starting to make a certain fizzy drink. To be extra seditious, Dwayne’s friend used it as the logo for his cola company and the rest, as they say, is history. Is it really necessary for me to start on all those hideous and absurd tales about 9/11 or have I made my point? What is it that makes us so eager to formulate these ridiculous hypotheses but, at the same time, so entirely uninterested in doing anything to improve our situation? Let me ask a question and please, bear in mind that I am quite a simpleton when it comes to this hypothesizing. Do you think that we spend an equivalent amount of time trying to find ways of retaliating if a premise is true? Okay. So the whole world is against us. We figured that out a long time ago. So do we really need to channel all our energy into constantly restating an already-drawn conclusion or do you think that we could perhaps, just perhaps, start doing something about it? This summer I read an article in a British paper by a distinguished Fleet Street journalist. In an interview on Irish TV, he began to speak about the problems in the Middle East, blaming many of them on the injustice of US foreign policy. During the commercial break, he was ordered by the program’s director to tone down or, in effect, be pulled from the show. Why? The station had received calls from many of its advertisers who threatened to withdraw their business if the station did not halt the “inflammatory rhetoric.� That the “rhetoric� involved stating what was well-substantiated by facts was irrelevant. But  did even one single Arab raise his or her voice in support of the man? Now there’s a “rhetorical� question if ever there was one. One of the major international networks was contemplating whether to set up shop in the Gulf. The producers were concerned about how they would be perceived in light of a damning documentary about the region that was soon to be aired. They expressed anxiety about the “fallout� from Arab audiences and authorities that would result the documentary’s being shown. So they waited on tenterhooks prior to making any firm commitment. Were they correct in their assumptions? Did we inundate them with grievances about the bigotry and flagrant prejudice that had been committed against us? Were the phone lines melting with the passion of our fury? Did we complain about how unfairly we were represented? Were we sufficiently inflamed to mobilize our commercial capabilities to influence the negative publicity we were being subjected to? (All rhetorical questions once again.) Office space is being sought by the same institution right here. And how was it exactly that we exercised our right to the difference of one letter between “pathetic� and “apathetic.� Who in the Arab world had the time to call attention to such bad press? No doubt, we were all far too busy fantasizing about new conspiracy theories. Lubna Hussain is a Saudi writer. She is based in Riyadh
  10. Your Countries contribution to Tsunamic Disaster

    I found this in the OL Gulf News Letters section today: What is bin Laden's burden for the heavily burdened? "The response of governments and individuals to the tsunami tragedy is indeed heart warming. Considering the very large sums of money being pledged by Western governments, I will be extremely interested to hear what Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaida network are offering as assistance to the devastated people of the region. Therein lies the real difference between legitimate governments representing the civilised world and a bunch of terrorists." That gave me pause for thought. I shall be waiting to see the donations. Peace
  11. Tell me honestly if you would take the word of "kaafir" (derogatory term used by some here) who have observed this sort of untoward behavior from a "pious" Muslim, if reported? More than likely it would be held against the reporting "kafr" since that seems to be the mainstay of moderator/insider import. I decided weeks ago that I will not divulge what I know on this subject and related matters because of the obvious bias shown here to non-Muslims. Such strict rules can and will backfire on you and lead to these situations .. that is something to think seriously about. Peace
  12. Got this today and thought you might be interested since this board has been hacked or corrupted before or if you know others who need the info. Peace New computer worm attacks bulletin boards 'Santy' spread quickly, but targets are limited By Bob Sullivan Technology correspondent MSNBC Updated: 3:19 p.m. ET Dec. 21, 2004 A new computer worm that attacks bulletin board services spread silently and quickly around the Internet Tuesday, infecting at least 38,000 systems within a few hours, experts said. The worm does not attack home computers, but consumers might encounter its effects. Bulletin boards that are infected will show a simple text message: "This site is defaced!!! This site is defaced!!! NeverEverNoSanity." The worm only attacks widely used message board software called PHP Bulletin Board. Other than displaying the text message, it does nothing malicious to infected computers, according to antivirus firm Kaspersky Labs. Because it spread rather quickly Tuesday morning, F-Secure Corp. issued an alert about Santy. "This is spreading very rapidly," said Ken Dunham, director of malicious code research at iDefense Inc. As a network-based worm, the malicious program is capable of making the rounds quickly without any user interaction, such as clicking on an e-mail attachment. In that way, Santy is similar to the Code Red or Nimda attacks, but the list of potentially vulnerable computers is far more limited that those attacks, said virus researcher Oliver Friedrichs of Symantec Corp. Santy searches for its digital victims using the "google"]Google[/url] search engine, Dunham said. The malicious program searches for a particular string of text to find computers running the vulnerable bulletin board software, then attacks them. "It only takes so long to "google"]Google[/url] and deface," he said. Friedrichs said attacks that take advantage of the powerful "google"]Google[/url] search engine are becoming more common. Earlier this year, the MyDoom computer virus temporarily disabled "google"]Google[/url] by harvesting e-mail addresses through the service. "It's not the first time we've seen a threat leveraging "google"]Google[/url]," he said. "It's extremely attractive to worm (author) who relies on gathering information like e-mail addresses. ... this is a trend we expect to continue." Another intriguing Santy trick: The worm brags about infecting "generations" of computers. Worms spread exponentially. The first infected computer may attack a dozen or more machines, each of which in turn attacks another dozen, and so on. Even after just four or five levels -- like generations in a family tree -- the attack is widespread. Santy keeps track of its family tree, announcing which generation has arrived on an infected computer. Searches for infected machines at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday showed the worm had already reached generation 24. "It does appear to be continuing to spread," Dunham said _________________
  13. Blasts Kill At Least 64

    I would think there are better ways to get a political agenda before the Iraqi people than this wholesale wanton murder of innocents. Acts such as this are beyond "resistance". What are these "insurgents" so afraid of? Peace Blasts Kill At Least 64 In Iraq's Holy Cities Attacks in Najaf, Karbala Appear to Target Shiites By Saad Sarhan and Anthony Shadid Washington Post Foreign Service Monday, December 20, 2004; Page A01 NAJAF, Iraq, Dec. 19 -- Explosives packed in vehicles tore through crowds gathered in Iraq's two most sacred Shiite cities Sunday, killing at least 64 people and wounding scores more in what many Iraqis fear may be a harbinger of the carnage promised by insurgents ahead of the country's Jan. 30 elections. The bombings in Najaf and Karbala appeared designed to inflict the greatest number of civilian casualties possible, the explosives detonating within walking distance of the tombs of Shiite Islam's most revered saints. With macabre effect, the blasts demonstrated yet again that insurgents, usually operating in Baghdad and Sunni regions in central Iraq, could extend their deadly reach into the heartland of Iraq's Shiite majority. The scenes that ensued have become all too familiar in Iraq: Streets were strewn with the twisted and charred wreckage of cars, as crowds wandered along the destruction with dazed, uncomprehending looks. Chunks of concrete were ripped from buildings and hurled onto ground soaked in rain, blood and cinders, framed in gray, stormy skies. "These attacks aim to destroy the country and the holy sites. This is terrorism against Shiites," said Fadhil Salman, 41, the owner of the Ghufran Hotel in Najaf. "They want to foil the elections, but this won't deter us." The bombings were the bloodiest episodes on a grim day across Iraq. On one of Baghdad's most dangerous streets, about 30 gunmen ambushed a car carrying workers of the Iraqi electoral commission, dragged them into the street and then killed them. In a separate incident, previously unknown groups threatened to kill 10 Iraqis they said worked for a U.S. contractor. Images of the blindfolded men, in civilian clothes and seated before a wall, were broadcast on Arab satellite television. The blasts in Najaf and Karbala occurred about an hour apart. The first tore through a crowded bus station in Karbala at 1:30 p.m., burning at least seven minibuses and shattering windows along the street. At least 14 people were killed and 50 were wounded, said Ali Hussein, a doctor at the city's Husseini Hospital. Witnesses reached by telephone said body parts littered the streets. Firefighters tried to put out blazes ignited by the blast, and sirens echoed through the streets as ambulances ferried victims to hospitals. There were conflicting reports about whether the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber. The explosives detonated about 300 yards from the twin, gold-domed shrines of Hussein and Abbas, the destination of hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims from Iraq, Iran and elsewhere. A police training academy was in the vicinity, news agencies said. Such sites have been common insurgent targets. The attack in Karbala followed a bombing Wednesday in the city that killed 10 people in an apparent attempt on the life of a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most influential religious leader. The man was wounded in the legs. The Sunday blast was the deadliest attack in Karbala since March 2, when a series of suicide bombings during Ashura, one of Shiite Islam's holiest days, killed more than 100 people. "God saved us," said Abu Ahmed, an employee of Kawther Transportation Co., whose office was just 10 yards from the blast. He was cut by flying glass. "All the dead and wounded were civilians," he said by telephone. "But this won't stop the people from returning to their normal lives." At 2:30 p.m., the second car bomb detonated in Najaf's Maidan Square, a busy stretch of shops several hundred yards from the tan brick shrine of Ali, the son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad, considered by Shiites to be his heir. At least 50 were killed and 91 were wounded, said Hussein Hadi Ali, a doctor at Najaf General Hospital. The explosion ruptured water pipes, flooding streets already soaked by a rare rainstorm, and cut the city's sporadic supply of electricity. The blast damaged buildings along a street that still bore scars from intense fighting between U.S. forces and a Shiite militia in August. For hours afterward, the site was cloaked in a haze of debris and smoke. Workers were still trying to pull bodies out of the wreckage into the evening, said Maj. Ghalib Jazaeri, the Najaf police chief. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack. But in recent days, Iraqi officials had received reports of insurgents headed from Fallujah to Najaf, near the Euphrates River about 45 miles southeast of Karbala. U.S. and Iraqi officials have warned of a surge in violence ahead of the Jan. 30 election to choose a 275-member parliament. The Shiite religious leadership has sought to mobilize the community before the vote, seeing it as the best opportunity for long-oppressed Shiites to gain power that reflects their majority status. Sistani has declared voting a duty, and a committee formed under his auspices negotiated an electoral list known as the United Iraqi Alliance that many expect to be the front-runner among 100 groups and individuals competing in the campaign. But powerful groups among Iraq's Sunni minority, long the power brokers in the country, have urged a boycott, viewing the election as impossible as long as bloodshed continues, or illegitimate in the shadow of the U.S. military presence. The most militant groups have threatened to attack polling stations, candidates and voters. "I swear to God, even if they burn all the elections centers, we will still go and vote," said Ali Waili, 29, a taxi driver reached by telephone in Karbala. "We have been mistreated for a long time, we have been tortured for a long time." In the wake of the attacks, leading Shiite figures appealed for calm. The movement of Moqtada Sadr, a young cleric whose Mahdi Army militia has twice led uprisings against U.S. forces, condemned the attack and dismissed the prospect of sectarian strife. "It is clear that there are some trying to impose conflict and civil war in Iraq," said Ali Yassiri, a top aide to Sadr. "Deceiving Iraqis is difficult. . . . These attacks will result in nothing but insistence on proceeding toward the Iraq of the future." Ayatollah Mohammed Saeed Hakim, who with Sistani is one of the country's four most important clerics, called the bombing an attempt to "incite sectarian sedition." A similar call for restraint was heard at the Ibn Taimiya Sunni Masjid in Baghdad, which was struck by at least two mortar rounds at 7 a.m. Four guards were wounded, one of them seriously; windows were shattered and wood paneling was damaged. Those responsible "must be trying to incite sectarian strife, but this will not happen," said a Masjid caretaker, Ali Mashhadani. The attack on the election commission workers in Baghdad occurred on Haifa Street, a busy downtown thoroughfare. About 30 militants throwing hand grenades and firing machine guns attacked the car as the employees headed to work, the commission said. The street is one of the city's most notorious. For a time, black banners of the movement of Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant, hung over the street. Along with the banners were uniforms of the Iraqi National Guard -- a warning against Iraqis taking part in the country's fledgling security forces. The inability to control the street has proved a persistent source of frustration for the U.S. military and the interim Iraqi government. The car was carrying five commission workers, two of whom escaped, said Adel Alami, a commission director. Witnesses quoted by the Associated Press, whose employee took photos of the attack, said insurgents opened fire on the vehicle before dragging people from it and forcing them to kneel in the street. The gunmen punched one of the men and then shot all three at point-blank range. The car was set on fire and the bodies left near the burning wreckage. Alami acknowledged the threat to the commission's workers but said it was doing everything it could to protect them. "We do what we can do," he said. Shadid reported from Baghdad. Special correspondents Omar Fekeiki, Naseer Nouri and Khalid Saffar in Baghdad contributed to this report. © 2004 The Washington Post Company "washingtonpost#####/wp-dyn/articles/A11450-2004Dec19.html"]washingtonpost#### #/wp-dyn/artic...-2004Dec19.html[/url]
  14. Talking with muslims in my area

    Of course, zeinab, it means free to talk and discuss without censorship of speech and ideas; without preset rules of subjects one can discuss .. open debate even. It is with the understanding that common sense and mutual respect prevail with adults.
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