Washington, DC: A new Amnesty International report released in December 2003,charges that in 2002, the Bush Administration violated the spirit of its own export policy and approved the sale of equipment implicated in torture to Yemen, Jordan, Morocco and Thailand, despite the countries' documented use of such weapons to punish, mistreat and inflict torture on prisoners. The US is also alleged to have handed suspects in the 'war on terror' to the same countries. The total value of US exports of electro-shock weapons was $14.7 million in 2002 and exports of restraints totalled $4.4 million in the same period. The report - The Pain Merchants - also reveals that the US approved the 2002 export to Saudi Arabia of nine tons of Smith & Wesson leg-irons. Former prisoners in Saudi Arabia have stated that their restraints were stamped with the name of Smith & Wesson. In a 2000 Amnesty International report, Phil Lomax, a UK national who was held for 17 days in 1999, recounted how shackles used in Malaz prison in Riyadh, were made in the US: "Whenever we were taken out of the cell we were shackled and handcuffed. The shackles were very painful. They were made of steel... like a handcuff ring. The handcuffs were made in the USA."
"Although torture is endemic in Saudi Arabia, Smith and Wesson had no qualms about exporting approximately 10,000 leg-irons to Riyadh, and apparently sharing this lack of concern, the Bush Administration approved the sale," said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "For decades, human rights groups and the US State Department have documented Saudi Arabia's cruel use of leg-irons and shackles to inflict torture and force confessions. The number of manufacturers of electro-shock technology has more than doubled since 1997, when Amnesty International documented 20 such firms. For the period 1999-2003, Amnesty International found at least 59 manufacturers of electro-shock weapons in 12 countries, including 8 firms in the US. For the same period, Amnesty International found 21 manufacturers of leg cuffs, leg-irons and shackles in 11 countries, of which six were US companies.
Makkah: The Emir of Makkah Region, Prince Abdul Majeed bin Abdul Aziz, officially inaugurated the Fourth Annual Makkah Conference here, and the theme this year is "The Muslim Ummah in Confronting the Challenges." The conference is organised by the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL), whose secretary-general delivered the welcome speech, in which he said that the conference would carefully study the challenges, political, cultural, economic, and others facing the Muslim people, and what needs to be done. He said the topic of reforms would be the major one for the conference, saying that the Muslims have been portrayed to the world as hating the world's other people and bearing grudges against them, and therefore as their enemies, whereas this is far from the truth. But, he added, it is for our intellectuals and scholars to clarify such false innuendoes and present Islam as it is, so that its adversaries and enemies do not have the opportunity to throw mud at it. In his address to the conference, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz said that in order for the Muslims to deal with their contemporary situation, it depends on their ability to adopt a comprehensive methodology for self-reform and to reform their relationship with God, and with their fellow beings.
Edmonton: The Canadian Forces' first Muslim chaplain began work at the Edmonton Garrison, bringing a little more religious diversity to the military. Capt. Suleyman Demiray, 37, is a Turkish-born Muslim cleric, or imam, who came to Canada 10 years ago and pursued a Masters degree from Carleton University in Ottawa. While he is happy to finally be on the job, he is also feeling the weight of his new role, calling it a "big responsibility to represent a faith and you know ... be (a) good model."
Two years ago, Demiray was invited to a dinner for the National Cemetery Project in Ottawa. "I met a couple of padres and they recommended me ... I learned there was an openness there and I put in my application." Officials estimate there are about 200 Muslim soldiers in the Canadian forces. Cpl. Efros Hanif is one of them. While he has appreciated the work of Protestant and Roman Catholic chaplains during his 17 years in the service, he is thrilled to finally have an imam to touch base with. Capt. Demiray says his chaplaincy shows a shift in thinking in the Canadian military - that it is becoming as diverse as the country it serves. He will act as chaplain to soldiers of all faiths in his new posting.
Washington: Atleast 21 US soldiers have so far committed suicide in Iraq during the last 10 months of armed operations in the occupied territory. The Health Department has identified the war stress as the major factor behind tendency to commit suicide. This takes the number of American deaths to 496 in combat and after the major combat was over on May 1. Another 153 US soldiers have lost their lives in non-combat operations.
New York: There are not that many Muslim organisations and charities in the United States, and you can be sure that each of them has been thoroughly investigated by the CIA and FBI for any ties to terrorism since the 9/11 attacks. But apparently some US senators do not think that enough has been done. In a letter asking for confidential tax records of 25 Muslim charities, Senators Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) sounded as if Muslim organisations were somehow overlooked in the past 2 years. "Many of these groups not only enjoy tax-exempt status, but their reputations as charities and foundations often allow them to escape scrutiny, making it easier to hide and move their funds to other groups and individuals who threaten our national security," they said. The largest of the listed groups, ISNA & ICNA, took the announcement in stride. "We are open, our books are open, everything is open," said Naim Baig, ICNA secretary general, who added that the group had never accepted donations from individuals or governments outside the US. ISNA concurred that their members have nothing to hide and will be happy to share their information. "This is not a fishing expedition targeting Muslims," said one Senate aide. "All the groups we are looking at are suspected of having some connections to terrorism or of doing propaganda for terrorists. We're not presuming anybody's guilty."
Wales: A Welsh Hollywood movie star was castigated recently by his local community, Muslims and non-Muslims, for his "racist and ill-informed" statements he made about Islam. John Rhys-Davies, a lead actor in the blockbuster- Lord Of The Rings, drew flak after he warned of a "demographic catastrophe" in Europe by 2020 that around 50 per cent of the children under 18 in Holland, for instance, will be of Muslim descent. "I condemn these comments as being racist and ill-informed," said Adam Price, the MP for Rhys-Davies' former home town, Ammanford. "It is obvious that this man who now lives in the lap of luxury in Hollywood is out of touch with realities of the nature of present day European society. "His attack on Muslims and comments about the threat that they pose to Western society shows his ignorance of world events and the true teachings of Islam," he added.
Riyadh: Italian Arab links have been highlighted at an exhibition entitled "Islam in Sicily," which opened at the Murabha Palace in the King Abdul Aziz Historical Center last fortnight. The exhibition was opened by Prince Abdul Aziz ibn Salman, undersecretary for petroleum affairs at the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources.
It is sponsored by the Italian Embassy in conjunction with the General Presidency of Youth Welfare and the King Abdul Aziz Foundation of which Riyadh Governor Prince Salman is president. The presence of several Islamic sites in Sicily demonstrates the depth of the island's Islamic heritage as do Arabic inscriptions, vestiges of Islamic architecture and the spectacular incorporation of Islamic styles into churches and palaces built by the Norman dynasty that overthrew Arab rule in Sicily. The finest are the Palatine Chapel and rooms in the 12th century royal palace in Palermo and the Zisa, the Norman kings' summer palace. The names of Sicilian town also testify to the Arab link such as the port of Marsala on the west of the island and the town of Catania in the east.
Riyadh: In a move to combat acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), the Ministry of Health has announced plans to establish three specialised facilities in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. The facilities will study, evaluate and treat patients with AIDS. An AIDS treatment center at the Riyadh Medical Complex has already opened with necessary facilities. The ministry had recently allocated SR20 million for medication for AIDS patients.
The number of Saudis suffering from AIDS exceeds 1,350. This is in addition to an ever-growing number of affected expatriates. The ministry has a public program to register all AIDS patients. The aim is to check the spread of the disease and to study growing trends.
Riyadh: The Saudi Arabian Television has introduced women newsreaders who don black headscarf and white jackets. The TV network has recruited five women among its 95-member editorial team.
Vatican: The Islamic-Catholic Liaison Committee says that dialogue is the best means to resolve wars and conflicts and to bring justice and peace to individuals and societies.
That was the committee's conclusion from its two-day meeting held last fortnight and this joint statement was signed by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Dr. Hamid bin Ahmad Al-Rifaie, president of the International Islamic Forum for Dialogue. Established in May 1998, the committee comprises representatives of the pontifical council and of the Al-Azhar Permanent Committee for Dialogue with Monotheist Religions. The theme of the committee's ninth meeting was "Human Dignity and Humanitarian Rights in Armed Conflicts." Both sides agreed on the following points: "Because we, Christians and Muslims, believe in one God, we acknowledge that peace is a name of God, and that human dignity is a gift of Almighty God. We therefore appeal for continuous prayer for peace, and we affirm that justice and peace are the basis of relations and of interaction among human persons.
"We appeal for an immediate end to all conflicts, including all forms of armed conflict, as well as all forms of aggression against the security and stability of people.