BANGKOK, December 14 -- Islam's guiding council in Thailand has introduced new regulations requiring that marriages with children under age 17 be approved by a religious committee.
The action follows an uproar earlier this year over an 11-year-old Thai girl who married a 41-year-old Malaysian man, triggering calls in both countries for stronger laws against child marriage. The girl was reportedly sent back to Thailand from Malaysia and put under the care of social welfare workers. Wisut Binlateh, a senior member of the Central Islamic Council of Thailand, said on Friday that Muslim children of any age in Thailand previously could get married with permission from their parents, but now children under age 17 must also seek approval from an Islamic committee which would consider whether the marriage is appropriate.
ANKARA, December 12 -- Turkey on Wednesday warned it will launch a new operation in Syria within days against US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria, risking renewed tensions with NATO ally the United States.
Addressing a defense industry meeting in Ankara on Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the target of the operation would be the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG - which Turkey views as a terrorist group linked to the insurgency within its borders. Washington's relationship with the YPG, seen as a key partner spearheading the fight against terrorists in Syria, is a major bone of contention between the US and Turkey. Ankara has repeatedly lambasted Washington for providing military support to the militia and threatened to attack areas held by the YPG. Erdogan announced the plans for a new offensive a day after the Pentagon said observation posts were in place on the Syria-Turkey border to prevent altercations between the Turkish army and the militia.
"We will start an operation to free the east of the Euphrates from the separatist terrorist organization in the next few days," Erdogan said, referring to territory held by the YPG. Turkey says the YPG is a "terrorist offshoot" of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
"The target is never American soldiers but terrorist organization members active in the region," Erdogan told the audience at a defense industry summit.
The Pentagon on Tuesday announced the posts' establishment on the northeast Syria border region despite calls from Ankara not to go ahead with the move. Erdogan claimed Turkey was not being protected from terrorists but "terrorists were being protected" from possible action by Turkey. In October, Turkey shelled YPG positions east of the Euphrates in the Kobane region. Youssef Hammoud, spokesman for a coalition of pro-Ankara rebels, said the aim of a new operation would be to remove the YPG from an area spanning Manbij to Tal Abyad. American forces have worked closely with the YPG under the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance against the ISIS terrorist group. US forces have joined the SDF east of the Euphrates as well as in the flashpoint city of Manbij, west of the river. In a bid to avoid any clash, the NATO allies agreed a "roadmap" for Manbij in June. In November, Turkish and American troops launched joint patrols in the northern city. Part of the agreement was that the YPG would leave Manbij and that the NATO allies would work together to establish a local security structure and decide who will govern.
But Erdogan on Wednesday said Turkey "still not got the result it wanted" in Manbij. "There has been a delaying tactic undeniably used in Manbij, and right now it is still being used," he said, adding that the threat from ISIS no longer existed in Syria.
YANGON, December 8 -- A court in Myanmar’s restive Kachin state has jailed three activists for defaming the military, their lawyer said, as campaigners slammed the “chilling warning” the ruling sends to critical voices in the country.
Lum Zawng, Nang Pu and Zau Jet had helped organise an anti-war demonstration in April in the state capital Myitkyina to highlight the plight of thousands displaced by fighting between the military and ethnic Kachin insurgents. The youth leaders were sentenced on Friday to six months in prison and fined the equivalent of $320 each. Kachin is in the grip of one of the world’s longest-running civil wars, as rebels have clashed with the powerful military for six decades over autonomy, ethnic identity, drugs, jade and other natural resources in the country’s northeast. Fighting surged dramatically this year, forcing thousands to flee to camps in remote parts of the state with inadequate access to aid.
In late April, amid public anger over the fresh violence, the three youth leaders organised a peaceful protest demanding help for the people taking refuge in camps. It also sparked protests in Yangon and Mandalay in a rare show of solidarity. The defence told the court that the leaders had “no intention” of defaming the Tatmadaw, as the military is called, and were more concerned with the fate of displaced people, lawyer Doi Bu told AFP. “But the court viewed them as harming the Tatmadaw,” she said, adding that they plan to appeal on Monday. The European Union said it “deeply regrets” the court’s decision and called for the sentences to be reviewed.
Three other activists protested against the ruling by marching in front of the court, prompting police to charge them for “protesting without permission”. They were bailed and will face trial at a later date.
“These jail sentences reflect a pattern of continued attacks” against civil society speaking out against the military, said Amnesty International’s Tirana Hassan. “It sends a chilling warning to [anyone] who wants to tell the truth about the Myanmar military’s brutality in Kachin and northern Shan states.” Rights groups estimate more than 106,000 people languish in displacement camps across conflict-torn Kachin and Shan states.
Ethnic Kachin are mainly Christians in a nation that is overwhelmingly Buddhist. While international focus has been on the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine state, an army unit accused of atrocities against the Muslim minority group has been redeployed to Kachin — which experts say is an ominous sign for civilians.
STOCKHOLM, December 6 -- A team from Yemen's Saudi-backed government left for Sweden on Wednesday to attend peace talks with members of the Iran-aligned Houthi group, in a renewed U.N. push to end a war that has pushed the country to the brink of starvation.
One representative of the internationally-recognised government, Abdullah al-Alimi, tweeted that the talks were "a true opportunity for peace," before the delegation flew out of the Saudi capital Riyadh. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - leaders of a Western-backed coalition battling the Houthis to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government - want to exit a war that has dragged on for nearly four years. Western allies, which provide arms and intelligence to the coalition, have ramped up pressure on them to find a way to end a conflict that killed tens of thousands of people and left more than 8 million facing famine.
The Saudi-led alliance intervened in the civil war in 2015 after the Houthi movement ousted Hadi's government from the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 2014. But the conflict has seen military stalemate since the alliance seized the southern port of Aden. The conflict is seen across the region as a proxy war between Sunni Muslim power Riyadh and Shi'ite Tehran. Seeking to reinvigorate peace efforts, U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths secured some confidence-building measures, including the evacuation of Houthi wounded, to help persuade the movement to attend the talks in Sweden. The Houthi delegation arrived there on Tuesday, having failed to turn up for previous talks in Geneva in September.
TRUCE, PRISONER SWAP
The latest round, to be held in a renovated castle outside Stockholm, will focus on agreeing other confidence-building steps and the formation of a transitional governing body. It was not clear if the warring parties would hold direct talks or if Griffiths would shuttle between the two sides. "If the consultations proceed positively, we will see an immediate change for people in Yemen. We will see fewer people hit by and fleeing violence, fewer people pushed to the most desperate means of staying alive," said Mohamed Abdi, Yemen country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council.
"Equally, if the consultations fail, or stall, so too will hopes of halting Yemen's steady descent into hell," he said in a statement. The U.N. envoy is seeking agreement on reopening Sanaa airport, swapping prisoners and securing a truce in the Houthi-held port of Hodeidah, now a focus of the war. This could lead to a wider ceasefire that would halt coalition air strikes and Houthi missile attacks on Saudi cities. The United Nations is trying to avert a full-scale assault on Hodeidah, the entry point for most of Yemen's commercial goods and aid. Both sides have reinforced positions in the Red Sea city in sporadic battles after a de-escalation last month.
International outrage over the Oct. 2 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's Istanbul consulate has refocused attention on the Yemen war and scrutiny over Saudi Arabia's activities in the region. The U.S. Senate is set to consider a resolution to end support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
The United States last month halted refuelling support for coalition warplanes, whose air strikes have been blamed for the deaths of thousands of civilians.
MOSCOW, December 5 -- The Russian government endorsed Israeli efforts to seek out and destroy tunnels constructed by the Hezbollah terrorist organization from southern Lebanon into northern Israel, but also urged the Jewish state not to take military action inside of Lebanon.
On Tuesday morning, Israel announced that it had launched Operation Northern Shield to locate and neutralize ‘terror tunnels’ along the Israeli-Lebanese frontier. Within hours of the initial announcement, the IDF reported that it had uncovered a terror tunnel originating in the southern Lebanese village of Kafr Kila, and leading into Israeli territory.
“IDF troops located a cross-border attack tunnel in the southern area of Kafr Kela. At this time, the IDF is carrying out an operational and engineering process to neutralize the tunnel,” an army spokesperson said Tuesday. A day after the discovery, the Russian government said that it backed Israeli efforts to neutralize the Hezbollah tunnel network. "There is no doubt regarding Israel’s right to ensure its national security, including by preventing anyone from entering the country," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
But Russia also signaled that it would not back the use of force by Israel inside of Lebanon, saying that any efforts to neutralize the terror tunnels must be in keeping with the United Nations Security Council resolution which ended the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.
"At the same time, we hope that no actions taken to achieve this purpose will be in conflict with UN Security Council Resolution 1701.” The US condemned Hezbollah’s attempts to tunnel into Israel, and expressed support for Israel’s Operation Northern Shield.“The US strongly supports Israel's efforts to defend its sovereignty, and we call on Hezbollah to stop its tunneling into Israel and to refrain from escalation and violence,” said US National Security Advisor John Bolton on Tuesday. “More broadly, we call on Iran and all of its agents to stop their regional aggression and provocation, which pose an unacceptable threat to Israeli and regional security.”
STOCKHOLM, November 8 -- Ann Coulter shocked both the audience and Fredrik Skavlan when she said things that few Swedish writers would dare say on TV.
It didn’t go well when Fredrik Skavlan tried to do a critical interview with Ann Coulter in an episode of the SVT and NRK (both public service channels) initiative “Skavlan”. She was outspoken to say the least, and did not mince her words about feminism and immigration when she appeared on SVT prime time on Friday. Maybe Skavlan should have thought twice before he invited the conservative speaker and writer to his well-known show. Coulter, known for her support for Donald Trump, talked, among other things, about the negative consequences of immigration, which she argued drives down wages for Americans, especially the poor.
“For 50 years, we have brought in immigrants from the third world. And whose wages are they driving down? The wages of the poorest.”, she said. The editors on SVT must have torn their hair out when Skavlan then asked her if she is a feminist. “Oh gosh, no. I don’t know what it means in Europe, but in the US it tends to mean that you’re an angry man-hating lesbian.”, she stated. After a brief silence, and a resentful reaction from the audience, a stunned Skavlan replied “Well, it doesn’t does it?” “It does!” Coulter confirmed.
She was also openly critical of the fact that women have the right to vote because, according to her, it has not proved to be good for society. “This is very interesting,” said an even more perplexed Skavlan. She also likened Donald Trump to a necessary “cancer treatment” that could destroy mainstream media, and then let real, more ethical journalism emerge and replace it. At the same time, however, she said she was disappointed that the American president didn’t keep all his promises, like building the US-Mexico border wall and pulling back all troops from Afghanistan.
At the end of the program, Skavlan stated that her thoughts on immigration are “strange” to Europeans and Scandinavians. Coulter then pointed out that mass immigration will ultimately lead to the disappearance of the peoples and cultures of the world and that everyone will look alike.
“You wouldn’t last 5 minutes in Sweden”, Skavlan told her out of the blue. It is unclear what he meant by that, and it is also unclear why the audience applauded his statement. He’s right, though. Beautiful, blonde outspoken women who refuse to cover themselves in hijabs, niqabs or burkas are anything but safe in Sweden these days. She ignored his comment and continued; “It works better if cultures stay in their own countries, that is genuine diversity as apposed to one blend”, she said. “You want to end all cultures”, she told Skavlan, who denied that it is what he wants.
When Skavlan argued that the US “is all about immigration,” Coulter replied that he is wrong, and that the country is a former British colony built on freedom and nothing else. In summary, Skavlan tried to put Coulter on the spot and failed miserably. Coulter was excellent as always, and proved very clearly that the highly biased mainstream media (especially public service) needs to go and be replaced by real, fact based and truthful journalism.
Racist Sinead O’Connor claims she won’t spend time with “disgusting white people” after converting to Islam
DUBLIN, November 7 -- Recent Islamic convert Sinead O’Connor, who now goes by the name “Shuhada Davitt”, in a recent tweet declared that “truly I never wanna spend time with white people again (if that’s what non-muslims are called). Not for one moment, for any reason. They are disgusting”
The Irish singer has had a history of mental illness and had at least one suicide attempt in the last year by her own admission, being admitted into a mental hospital soon after. The singer, a self-identified feminist, only recently publicly announced her conversion to Islam, and now wears a hijab. In her most recent flurry of tweets, she says she can no longer spend time with “non-Muslims”, claiming they are “disgusting”.
Sinead O’Connor’s demise only serves to highlight how it is typically the most vulnerable and unstable people who convert to Islam. With her history of mental illness, we can only hope she receives the help she needs.
ROTTERDAM, November 6 -- Where are the West’s solidarity marches for Asia Bibi? Where are the t-shirts? Why aren’t ‘Free Asia Bibi’ flags flying on campuses? Why haven’t student progressives elected Asia as the symbolic head of their unions, as they did with persecuted Eastern European writers in the 1970s or African liberation leaders in the 1980s?
Bibi, after all, comes across as an ideal person for those of a genuinely liberal or leftist persuasion to get behind. She’s a woman. She’s a farm labourer. She is part of a persecuted minority (Christians in Pakistan). And she has been subjected to awful punishments and deprivations merely for saying something. In a different era, Asia would have been a cause célèbre in certain Western circles. But not today. Why? Because many in the West now agree that the thing Bibi is alleged to have done, and for which she has been so severely punished, is indeed immoral – that is, mocking Muhammad.
Bibi is a Roman Catholic and a former farm worker from the Sheikhupura district of Punjab. In June 2009 she was harvesting berries with other women in Sheikhupura when she picked up a cup to take a drink of water. Some of the other women, Muslims, accused her of polluting the cup, given she is a Christian and therefore unclean, or ‘filthy’, as they branded her. And they allege that Bibi fired back with some swipes at Muhammad. Bibi has always denied this. Nonetheless, a mob visited her house and beat her up. She was then arrested, charged with blasphemy, and, in November 2010, sentenced to death by hanging.
She was sent to death row. She was attacked in prison. Other prisoners were arrested for conspiring to kill her. There were regular anti-Bibi protests by hardline Islamists waving placards saying, ‘HANG ASIA’. They wanted her execution hurried along so that the world might be rid of this poor, filthy Catholic woman who allegedly disrespected the Prophet.
Last week, however, Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned Bibi’s sentence. It accused the women who made the accusations against her of lying – their story was ‘concoction incarnate’, it said – and it decreed that Bibi was ‘free to go’. Only Bibi has not been free to go. In response to the Supreme Court’s acquittal there have been massive and violent Islamist protests across Pakistan. ‘Kill Asia’, they have demanded in their thousands. They have burned rickshaws, cars and lorries. The protests are thought to have caused damage in the region of £900million.
And in response to this intolerant mob uprising, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan has agreed to refuse Bibi’s right to leave the country. In the words of Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association, this is akin to ‘signing her death warrant’. Indeed, Bibi’s lawyer has already had to flee Pakistan, though he intends to continue fighting for Bibi’s full freedom once he has established asylum somewhere. Forcing Bibi to stay in a country in which many thousands of people want to kill her is cruel and inhuman treatment.
Of course there has been much disquiet in the West over the past eight years, from human-rights outfits and most notably from Christian groups. The Vatican called for clemency. Pope Francis said he felt a ‘spiritual closeness’ with Bibi. Groups such as Voices of the Martyrs, which campaigns on behalf of persecuted Christians, organised petitions for Bibi’s freedom that got up to 400,000 signatures. In Pakistan itself, brave Christians protested in Lahore and elsewhere, calling for Bibi’s release and for the abolition of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. First introduced by the British Raj in 1860, and then severely strengthened under the military rule of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s, these laws forbid the insulting of religious beliefs, the desecration of a Koran (life imprisonment), and the mocking of the Prophet (death).
Yet something has been notable by its absence amid the admirable pro-Bibi efforts of Pakistani and Western Christians: the full and loud raising of the Western liberal voice.
One of the top authors of The Peet Journal is Pete McGea. As a native born Scotsman, Pete
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