Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"They claim we are all we are being persecuted."

Former Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin is expected to be charged at the Syariah Court in Gombak Timur by the Friday for giving religious talks without tauliah (authorisation), said Selangor Islamic Department (Jais) today.

I hope Jais will also charge him for being a wahabbi as he is being labeled as such even he has denied it repeatedly.....if there is such a charge and available act in Selangor.

The report below was published about one year ago. Have you heard about Ingushetia?

Ingushetia in 'state of civil war'

By Richard Galpin
BBC News, Moscow

The Presidential building of Ingushetia
Russia has sent thousands of soldiers to strengthen security in Ingushetia

Human rights activists and opposition politicians in Russia's southern republic of Ingushetia have told the BBC that the predominantly Muslim region is now in a state of civil war.

It is reported that more than 800 people have been killed in an escalating conflict which originally spilt over from neighbouring Chechnya six years ago.

Ingushetia is a tiny region with a total population of just 300,000.

"A lot of my human rights colleagues and politicians say it is now a civil war and I agree with that," Magomed Mutsolgov, director of the Ingush Human Rights organisation Mashr, says.

"In my opinion it is a war between the security forces and the local population. Many members of the security forces consider themselves above the law and the population outside the law," he adds.

A low-level insurgency involving Muslim fighters escalated dramatically last year with a surge of attacks on the security forces and also on people who have moved into the region from other parts of Russia.

"From July or August last year there have been three or four attacks every week," Tanya Lokshina, of Human Rights Watch, says. She recently compiled a major report on Ingushetia.

"There are a few hundred insurgents in total… who are Jihadists fighting to establish a Caliphate in the (Caucasus) region."

Hamzat Gardanov
Hamzat Gardanov was shot dead in August

Moscow's response has been heavy-handed, with reports that an extra 2,500 troops from outside Ingushetia were deployed in the republic last year to help crush what Russia sees as a Muslim rebellion.

But this has only added fuel to the fire which is driving ever more young Ingush men into the arms of the rebels.

'Destroying everything'

The military and other security services including the FSB, the successor to the KGB, have long stood accused of committing gross human rights violations against the Ingush population - such as kidnapping and torture.

But last year, according to Human Rights Watch, the security forces were also responsible for a wave of extra-judicial killings.

Human Rights Watch says 40 people were killed without any proof they had anything to do with the insurgency.

Young men of 18 and 19 want to avenge these killings - for some it's a Jihad against Russia
Jamaldin Gardanov

On a dirt track on the outskirts of the main town, Nazran, Jamaldin Gardanov showed me the spot where he says his brother Hamzat was shot through the head by a Russian soldier in August.

He told me Hamzat had been driving home with his cousin after buying some paint in town.

"My brother and his cousin were passing a checkpoint set up after a policeman was killed on the main road," he said.

"The car turned down here (into the dirt track) and the security forces opened fire with intent to kill.

Jamaldin Gardanov with brother's children
Jamaldin Gardanov with some of the children of his dead brothers

"My brother died on the spot and his cousin ran off through the fields. The police then fired on the fields for two hours destroying everything.

"I'm 36-years-old and far from being a fighter, but young men of 18 and 19 want to avenge these killings. For some it's a Jihad against Russia," he said.

Back at Jamaldin's house we met Hamzat's widow and her two children. Jamaldin is now looking after them all.

Over lunch he showed me photographs of a raid on his house by Russian soldiers at the beginning of this month.

One of the pictures shows a young child standing outside the house in front of an armoured personnel carrier.

"My wife and children were standing outside for three hours as they searched our house," he said.

"They claim we are all Wahhabis", he said, "so we are being persecuted."

Jamaldin does come from a family of theologians and is deeply religious, but he strongly denies any links to radical Islam.

"The security forces have created the threat of Wahhabism as a cover for what they are doing here," he said.

He then showed us some shocking clips of video stored on his mobile phone.

In the first we could see a close-up of a man's head covered in blood.

This was another of Jamaldin's brothers, 21-year-old Adam. Jamaldin says he was also shot dead by the security forces.

The widow of one of the brothers
The widow of one of the brothers

The second mobile phone video shows the incident, which happened in the centre of Nazran, in February last year.

It was filmed by someone inside the main administration building, looking down on the square where Adam and a friend had been sitting in a car.

The video shows what looks very much like a soldier pulling the bodies from the vehicle.

Jamaldin says the prosecutor told him off the record that his brother Adam was "absolutely clean", there was no reason for him to have been killed.

The family believes Adam may have been targeted simply because he was a devout Muslim who had studied in Egypt.

Torture victim

Later, in a safe location, we met up with another victim of the security forces' dirty war in Ingushetia.

23-year-old Tamerlan could barely get out of the car when he arrived at our meeting-point.

He had just been released after being detained for six days by the security forces in the northern town of Maglobek.

He had been picked up with three friends following the murder of a policeman in the town.

When we got inside, he pulled up his jumper to reveal a cluster of deep bruises and cuts around his lower back.

He said he was also badly bruised on his upper thighs and he had marks on his wrists.

Tamerlan showing his bruised back to camera
Tamerlan says he was tortured for 12 hours and lost consciousness

"They tortured me from six in the morning to six in the evening," he said.

"They put a sack over my head and beat me so badly I lost consciousness. They put sharp implements under my nails. I thought I was going to die, it was sadistic.

"They also tied my hands and feet together and hung me up - so I started to suffocate."

He says the security forces were trying to get him to confess to involvement in the policeman's murder but had to release him because he knew nothing about it.

He told me he had no connection with the rebels.

"Maybe they detained me because I'm a Muslim and pray at the Mosque and my wife wears the Hijab," he said.

According to the mainstream opposition leader Maksharip Aushev, this brutal treatment of the local population is not only swelling the ranks of the rebel fighters.

"People are coming to me all the time, saying let's vote for independence," he says.

"If we had a referendum, 80% of the population would vote to leave Russia," he adds.

In a sign of mounting panic back in Moscow, the Kremlin suddenly announced three weeks ago that the former KGB officer Murat Zyazikov, who had been in charge of Ingushetia since 2002, was being replaced.

The new man is a career soldier, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who made his name during the wars in Chechnya.

He turned down our request for an interview.

The most senior politician in the region who was prepared to speak to us was the chairman of the local parliament's security committee, Mukhtar Buzurtanov.

He said Yunus-Bek Yevkurov must bring the security forces under control and stop what he called their "illegal activities".

But he also accused the rebels of trying to destabilise Russia, saying they were part of a radical Islamic movement which had moved into Ingushetia after the wars in Chechnya.

He added that more than 50 soldiers had been killed so far this year.

Other senior officials in the local government have been quoted as saying they have to mount security operations to eliminate the rebels because of the threat they pose to Moscow's rule over the region.

The arrival of a new leader of Ingushetia who is a battle-hardened soldier and veteran of the Chechen conflict may sound ominous.

But the top opposition politician Maksharip Aushev holds out some hope that Yunus-Bek Yevkurov could improve the situation.

"The former leader Zyazikov was 100% to blame (for the situation). The first thing (new leader Yunus- Bek Yevkurov) did was to invite us to meet him and he said he plans to stop the human rights abuses and tackle corruption. At the moment we see no reason not to trust him."

So far there have not been any signs of change and the violence and abuses have continued.

"We will give [Mr Yevkurov] a maximum of three months," Mr Aushev says.

"We will support him if things change, if not it will go back to the situation as it was before."


Wonder why Emirates (Dubai) soars and BA (Britain) falters

I first heard about Emirates Airline in 2000 when I was to fly to Dubai for an interview. Never heard about this airline before.
Why Emirates soars and BA falters

One of the business world's oddities is that two companies doing largely the same thing can experience massively differing fortunes. Take Apple and Microsoft, the most influential companies in the technology sector over the past 25 years. The stock of one is soaring high while the other is struggling – and yet both do almost identical things: they both build operating systems, software and hardware.

Despite the similarity in activities, Microsoft's net profits in the last quarter were 18 per cent down on a year ago while Apple was up 46 per cent. Go back 10 years and the performance of these twins was reversed with Microsoft sitting on top of the world and beloved by investors while Apple was pining its hopes on an embryonic device called the ipod.

This capacity for divergence in the same market was driven home last week when both Emirates airline and British Airways published their results for the six months to the end of September. Both carriers saw revenues decline by 13 per cent because both have been forced to cut ticket prices to combat the wider economic downturn. But that is where the similarity ends.

Emirates increased profits by 165 per cent to Dh752 million while BA slumped to a £292m (Dh1.79 billion) loss from a profit of £52m in the same period last year.

Emirates increased passenger numbers by 18 per cent to 13 million while BA's numbers fell 2.6 per cent to 17.7 million. Emirates directly contributed Dh10bn to Dubai's economy while BA once again cancelled its dividend.

Both these carriers operate in the same market and fly to many of the same destinations and yet BA's results are painful. Indeed, BA's performance looks increasingly desperate when you consider that its revenue is weighted towards the northern summer while Emirates can look forward to a spike in this half as its leisure passengers head south towards the sun.

There are a number of things that could explain the wildly differing fortunes of these two airlines. The first, which is often raised by European airlines in reference to the Gulf's carriers, is the argument that the playing field is not level. Emirates is a privately-held company and therefore its disclosure is rather limited.

This, European airlines argue, allows Emirates to hide state aid in the form of cheap airport fees and subsidised fuel being the most commonly cited examples. There is nothing that annoys Emirates executives more than hearing this old line used to denigrate their achievements and they will swear until blue in the face that it is not true. Indeed, competition at Dubai is greater than at many European airports because the emirate has an open skies policy.

In the case of Apple and Microsoft, one of the clear reasons for their differing fortunes has been that one is creating products that capture consumer imagination while the other is still reeling from the horror show that was Windows Vista. If we look at BA and Emirates, the product differences are not so great. True, Emirates' A380 is superior to anything BA can serve up at the moment but, to be fair, BA remains a benchmark in terms of quality. It would be a different matter if we were comparing Emirates with Delta or Alitalia but the gap between BA and Emirates is far smaller.

So, if we eliminate subsidies and product as the reasons for the divergent performance of these airlines we are only really left with efficiency. Here, I suspect, BA loses out. It is a legacy carrier that has inherited ways of operating that were developed over decades, many of which you would not willingly choose if you were starting from scratch. BA is attempting to tackle this issue by stripping out costs and cutting jobs as fast as it can. But its workforce is heavily unionised and a showdown is brewing. Its 14,000 cabin crew are up for a fight over plans to change their working conditions and cut the various allowances that mean their average salary is twice what crew on Virgin Atlantic get paid.

For BA, I suspect things will get worse before they get better. However, if the airline can tackle the serious challenges it faces, a recovery is certainly possible. For Emirates the challenge is to learn lessons from companies like Microsoft so as not to blunder in the same way and, instead, maintain an upward trajectory.

- The writer is Business correspondent with The Times of London