The Week in Review. What Others Are Saying

THE NETHERLANDS: Turkish-Dutch man in hiding after criticizing antisemites, The Netherlands reports: Mehmet Şahin of Arnhem, who last week openly distanced himself from antisemitic statements by Turkish-Dutch youth on an NTR program, has gone into hiding.  NTR is the independent Dutch public service broadcaster specialising in information, education and culture.  The youth said that “Hitler had done a good job” and that the murder of women and babies was good because they were Jews. After Şahin criticized the youth, he received death threats from individuals in his neighborhood. He was accused of being Jewish and an agent of the Mossad. Residents in his neighbourhood also signed a petition to force him to relocate. By order of the mayor of Arnhem, Pauline Krikke, Şahin and his family were found temporary alternative accommodation.

FRANCE: Nazi symbols used against Jews in two incidents in Paris

The Times of Israel reports: French police are investigating two incidents in Paris in which Nazi symbols were used. On Thursday, swastikas were painted on the door of a Paris office of the Union of Jewish French Students. Earlier this week, police arrested a man who performed a Nazi salute in front of the Paris rabbinate. The swastikas on the offices of the UEJF at Paris’ Université Panthéon-Assas “prove that universities are also affected by the rise in anti-Semitic incidents in France,” the union’s president, Jonathan Hayoun, said in a statement.

ARAB & MUSLIM POLL: Iran unpopular in Arab and Muslim World.  Majorities say Iran intends to build a nuclear weapon

The Wilson Center, USA reports:  Iran is now viewed unfavorably in 14 out of 20 Arab and Muslim countries, according to a new poll by Zogby Research Services. The survey results show a growing antipathy towards Tehran, especially in Sunni countries. Majorities in all but four countries agreed that Iran is contributing to sectarian division in the Arab world. Only majorities in Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Yemen think “Iran is working to promote peace and stability in the region.” Tehran’s unfavorable ratings “appear to be driven by its policies in Iraq, Syria, the Arab Gulf region, in general, and by its nuclear program,” according to the report. “Syria is the nail in the coffin of Iran’s favorable rating in the region,” said Jim Zogby at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on March 5. In 2006, Zogby Research Services surveyed opinion on Iran’s nuclear intentions. The majorities in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates thought Iran’s program was for peaceful purposes. But public opinion has flipped. Majorities in those same countries now say Iran intends to build a nuclear weapon. Majorities in 14 countries support economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic. But no majority in any surveyed country supports a military strike on Iran’s program…

IRAN: Iran condemns US and Israel for being behind anti-Shia terrorist attacks in Pakistan

Press TV, Iran reports: In a Saturday statement, Chairman of the Assembly of Experts Ayatollah Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi Kani severely criticized the silence of international organizations over the massacre of Pakistani Shia Muslims. The senior cleric also called on religious scholars and students to gather to vociferate their resentment against such brutal acts of terrorism. In protest to the massacre of Pakistani Shias by foreign-backed terrorists, all seminaries in the cities of Tehran and Qom were closed on Saturday, with teachers and students taking to the streets to voice their protest to the silence of international organizations. They also chanted slogans in support of innocent Pakistani Shias while condemning US and Israel for being behind anti-Shia terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The protest came after a bombing in the Pakistani port city of Karachi on March 3 killed over 45 Shia Muslims and injured 150 others. Women and children were among those killed and injured. Shias make up 20 percent of the country’s 180-million-strong population.

GAZA CITY: Hamas brands Obama visit a ‘trap’

The Daily Star, Lebanon reports: The Hamas prime minister charged on Friday that an upcoming regional visit by US President Barack Obama was a “trap” aimed at undermining Palestinian reconciliation. “We are convinced that Obama’s visit will not produce the necessary breakthrough for our people,” Ismail Haniya said at a sermon during weekly Muslim prayers in the Gaza Strip’s Al-Omari mosque. And he urged rival Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is due to meet Obama at his West Bank headquarters, not to be deluded by the visit or sacrifice efforts to seal Palestinian reconciliation. Palestinian Authority president Abbas should “not fall into the trap of Obama’s visit to the region and shut the door to reconciliation,” said Haniya. Obama’s visit “will focus on regional developments and will only address our cause in a way to undermine Palestinian national reconciliation efforts and to relaunch the absurd so-called negotiations” with Israel, he said.

EGYPT: Student union elections reveal Brotherhood’s weakening social base

Egypt Independent reports: The preliminary results of student union elections across Egyptian state universities reflect a sweeping success for students affiliated with opposition political groups as well as independents. The results, observers argue, could detrimentally affect the Muslim Brotherhood’s traditional power base that typically depends heavily on student unions and professional syndicates. Ongoing student union elections, conducted on five levels across 13 state universities, are witnessing an unexpected voter turnout, with remarkable participation from independent and previously apolitical students contesting seats at the faculties’ level. According to a report released by the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression, independent and non-Islamist politicized students won a sweeping vote in the universities of Cairo, Ain Shams, Benha, Tanta, Alexandria, Monufiya, Assiut and Minya.

IRAN: Iran’s Ahmadinejad criticised over Chavez remarks

Today’s Zaman, Turkey reports: Senior Iranian clerics have criticised President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for saying Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will be resurrected alongside Jesus Christ and the hidden imam who Shi’ite Muslims believe will rise up to bring world peace. Iran declared a day of national mourning on Wednesday after the death of Chavez, who shared the Islamic Republic’s loathing for what they both called US imperialism. Ahmadinejad was among at least two dozen leaders travelling to Venezuela to attend Chavez’s funeral on Friday. In a condolence letter posted on his personal website on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad said he was certain that Chavez “will return” along with Jesus Christ and Imam Mahdi, who devout Shi’ite Muslims believe went into hiding in the 10th century and will reappear one day to spread justice in the world. But Ahmadinejad’s comments angered some religious officials in Iran. “The terms Mr Ahmadinejad used to describe the Venezuelan president are not appropriate for us,” the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Ghorbanali Dorri Najafabadi, a cleric and a senior member of the Assembly of Experts, as saying.

EGYPT: Egypt’s police protest against Muslim Brotherhood

The Jordan Times reports: Thousands of low-ranking policemen on strike across Egypt on Thursday refused orders to work and protested what they claim is the politicisation of the force in favour of the president’s Muslim Brotherhood Party. The strike, in its fourth day, is a rare show of defiance by policemen against their superiors. It threatens to unravel a security force already weakened by two years of unrest following the ouster of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. For decades, Egypt’s police aggressively targeted the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups that were once outlawed. Policemen say they are now being forced to confront protesters angry with Mubarak’s successor, President Mohamed Morsi, and his Brotherhood supporters. They also are angry that they can be tried in military courts and complain that current laws do not protect them when they carry out their duties. The interior ministry said in a statement Thursday that it stands at equal distance from all parties, and that the ministry is being objective in its duties.

SYRIA: Surge in flow of militants from West

Khaleej Times, UAR reports: Increased use of English in videos by extremists and a rising flow of recruits from Europe to fight in Syria and on other battlegrounds is disturbing US officials who fear some could return to Europe or come to the United States to plot attacks. Only last week, a man who spoke English and Arabic and called himself Abu Ahmed Al Amriki (Arabic for ‘the American’) starred in a new video message posted on websites and produced by Al Shabaab, the militant group based in Somalia. Abu Ahmed, whose face was blurred and whose real identity is not known, called on Muslims to give up their comfortable lives in the West and head for the front lines, in places like Somalia, Mali and Afghanistan, to wage holy war…

SPAIN: Return of Sephardic Jews to Spain

European Weekly News, Spain reports: Before the infamous Spanish Inquisition of the 15th Century, some 300,000 Jews lived in Spain. It was one of the largest communities of Jews in the world. Today, there are about 40,000 or 50,000, but that number could be about to dramatically increase. In November, Spain’s justice minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon announced a plan to give descendants of Spain’s original Jewish community, known as Sephardic Jews, a fast-track to a Spanish passport and Spanish citizenship. Anyone who could prove their Spanish Jewish origins, he said, would be given Spanish nationality and the news has spread like wildfire among Sephardic Jews around the world. According to the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities, which processes the applications, there were about 6,000 enquiries in the first month alone. For decades, there has been a movement to allow Sephardic Jews to return, but it is unclear why the Spanish government has chosen to bring up the issue again now. In theory, inviting them back now could give a boost to Spain’s shrinking economy, it has also been suggested that Spain made the offer to appease Israel, after Madrid supported last year’s successful Palestinian bid for a seat at the United Nations. Whatever the motivation, some Muslim scholars are denouncing the offer as unfair. They point out that their ancestors were expelled from Spain during the Inquisition, but they are not being invited back.

BULGARIA: Bulgaria Admits Failure to Save 11,000 Jews in WWII

RIA Novosti, Russia reports: Bulgaria has expressed regret for the first time that it failed to prevent deportation of more than 11,000 Jews to Nazi Germany from regions under Bulgarian control during the Second World War. The Bulgarian Parliament unanimously adopted on Friday a declaration related to the 70th anniversary of the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews and in tribute to the victims of the Holocaust. “An objective evaluation of the historic events today could not ignore the fact of the 11, 343 Jews deported from North Greece and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which were at that time under German jurisdiction [although administered by Bulgarian authorities,” the declaration said. The Jews from Greek Thrace and Macedonia, who did not have Bulgarian citizenship, were sent to Nazi concentration camps in Poland. Only a few of them survived.

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