Thursday, August 24, 2017

Almost all of Germany's 4.7 million Muslims feel connected to the German society... the feeling is apparently not mutual

    Thursday, August 24, 2017   No comments
...
Most Muslims are well integrated into German society, an international research project published on Thursday revealed. But they also face Islamophobia, with nearly one in five Germans saying they would not want Muslim neighbors.
  A new study by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation looked into the level of education, employment and social engagement of Muslims in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France and the United Kingdom, and found that 96 percent of German Muslims - both of first and following generations - felt connected to Germany. The study did not cover Muslims who arrived after 2010.


"The international comparison shows that it is not religious affiliation that determines the success of opportunities for integration, but the state and the economic framework," said Stephan Vopel, an expert on social cohesion at the Bertelsmann Foundation.

"This study proves that the reality, when it comes to participation of Muslims in society, isn't as bleak as it is often presented in the media," said Ayse Demir, spokeswoman for the Berlin-based Turkish community organization TBB. "It shows that a lot of Muslims feel integrated, but there is a lack of acceptance - and that's also our perception. Participation isn't a one-way street: It needs to come from both sides."

Demir blamed the media for this disconnect. "We're having a right-wing shift in Germany and in Europe," she said. "At the moment a lot is being instrumentalized: Muslims are being presented as the 'enemy' - and of course that gets used by right-wing populists, and then people verbally attack Muslims."  source

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

And the winner is: Assad

    Tuesday, August 22, 2017   No comments
The US is increasingly moving away from its anti-Assad course. The Syrian president appears increasingly confident, announcing that conditions will apply to countries wanting to rejig their relationship with Syria. 
  On Sunday, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad gave a speech in front of dozens of his country's diplomats. He came across as confident: Among other things, he declared that there would be no cooperation with countries "that do not clearly and definitively cut their ties to terrorism."

This dig was aimed at several states, including some Arab ones, especially on the Arabian Peninsula. It also refers to a number of European countries – and the United States. Assad accuses them of collaborating with "terrorists."

Assad has reason to be optimistic. He gave this speech three days after a jihadist drove into and killed 14 people in Barcelona, injuring more than 100. Attacks like these are a gift to the Syrian president: They help make him look like a potential partner to those who have, until now, opposed him. Hardly a week goes by the West without an IS-backed terror attack, Assad told the assembled diplomats, adding: "This fact has forced Western politicians to change their attitude" towards Syria.

...

It does seem that Assad is going to stay in power, at least for the time being. He has succeeded in presenting himself as a bulwark against jihadism. From his point of view, this portrayal makes absolute sense. But if the Sunnis should come to the conclusion that they were now facing an alliance of Shiites, Russia and the USA, this would probably once again fuel jihadism. The American think tanks warn that, if this should happen, the terrorism we are seeing now would be just the precursor to a subsequent, even more brutal expression. Source


Friday, August 11, 2017

602,759 displaced Syrians returned home in first 7 months of 2017 according to reports from UN Migration Agency

    Friday, August 11, 2017   No comments
Between January and July 2017, 602,759 displaced Syrians returned home according to reports from IOM, the UN Migration Agency, and implementing partners on the ground. Findings indicate that the vast majority of the people returning (84 per cent) had been displaced within Syria. The next highest number of people (16 per cent) returned from Turkey, followed by Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Returnees from Turkey and Jordan reportedly returned mainly to Aleppo and Al Hasakeh Governorates.
An estimated 27 per cent of the returnees stated that they did so to protect their assets or properties and 25 per cent referred to the improved economic situation in their area of origin. Other factors people gave IOM and partners as their reasons for returning included the worsening economic situation in the place where they were seeking refuge (14 per cent), social or cultural issues such as tribal links, political affiliations or any obstacle preventing integration in their area of displacement (11 per cent), and the improvement of the security situation in their area of return (11 per cent).
Half of all returns in 2016 were to Aleppo Governorate. The report shows that similar trends have been observed in 2017. Consequently, an estimated 67 per cent of the returnees returned to Aleppo Governorate (405,420 individuals), 27,620 to Idleb Governorate, and 75,209 to Hama Governorate, 45,300 to Ar-Raqqa Governorate, 21,346 to Rural Damascus and 27,861 to other governorates.
Within the Governorates mentioned, Aleppo city, received the most returnees, followed by Al Bab sub-district in Aleppo Governorate, Hama sub-district in Hama Governorate, Menbij sub-district in the northeast of Aleppo Governorate, and Al-Khafsa sub-district also in Aleppo Governorate.
According to reports, almost all (97 per cent) returned to their own house, 1.8 per cent are living with hosts, 1.4 per cent in abandoned houses, 0.14 per cent in informal settlements and 0.03 per cent in rented accommodation.
Access of returnees to food and household items is 83 per cent and 80 per cent respectively. Access to water (41 per cent) and health services (39 per cent) is dangerously low as the country’s infrastructure has been extremely damaged by the conflict.
The report indicates that an increasing number of Syrians displaced within the country appear to be returning home. The total figure by end of July this year was already close to the 685,662 returns identified in the whole of 2016. However, of those returnees, an estimated 20,752 and 21,045 were displaced again in 2016 and 2017 respectively. This means that around 10 per cent of those who returned ended up as internally displaced persons (IDPs) once again.
While trends of returns increase, Syria continues to witness high rates of displacement. From January to July 2017, an estimated 808,661 people were displaced, many for the second or third time, and over 6 million in total currently remain displaced within the country.
 
 
IDP returns have mainly been spontaneous but not necessarily voluntary, safe or sustainable. As such, they cannot, at present, be considered within the context of a durable solutions framework. Find out more about this at: https://www.iom.int/progressive-resolution-displacement-situations.
These data have been collected by IOM’s implementing partners, who use a set of tools and methods to identify, assess and monitor different population categories throughout Syria, in relation to needs and mobility dynamics at a community level. source

 

what will China do if the U.S. or North Korea launch first strike?

    Friday, August 11, 2017   No comments
ISR comment: While the U.S. and North Korea increased their threats to one another, China moved to make its position clear. Although the views of this news outlet are not direct official government declarations, reports nonetheless represent China's inclination made public before issuing policy statements. The Global Times outlined China's position as follows:
 
Beijing is not able to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down at this time. It needs to make clear its stance to all sides and make them understand that when their actions jeopardize China's interests, China will respond with a firm hand.

China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

'Islam is in a transformative process'

    Thursday, August 10, 2017   No comments
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im
Muslims feel conflicted about certain aspects of historical Islam, says the Islamic scholar Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im. How does the notion of Sharia fit within the idea of a secular state?
Sharia in a secular state -  isn't that a contradiction in terms?
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im: The question is: what does one mean by Sharia? People tend to think of the legal end of it, as if that is the whole principle of Sharia. But Sharia consists of the whole normative system of Islam founded in the Koran, the Sunna and the hadith, or tradition of the Prophet. So it is not possible - even in a secular state - to deny Muslims the right to turn to Sharia to answer questions such as how to pray or how to fast.   

Sharia cannot be enforced by the state anywhere. There is absolutely no possibility to enact Sharia as a law of the state whether it be in a so-called "Muslim majority country" or a tiny Muslim minority anywhere. The nature of Sharia defies codification. It is about the interpretation that people choose through their own conviction.

So what is Sharia for you?
Sharia provides moral guidance for Muslim individuals. State and religion should be clearly separated. For me, as a Muslim, I need the state to be secular so that I can practice Islam through conviction and choice. The need of the state to be secular derives from an Islamic point of view; it has nothing to do with the European Enlightenment. The state has nothing to do with my being a believer or an atheist.

If state and religion are to be clearly separated, what role can religion play in public discourse?

I make a distinction between the state and politics. The state has nothing to do with Islam, but politics is a field where religion is always relevant. You cannot keep religion out of politics. Just like the CDU [editor's note: Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats] in Germany believes that its political platform is inspired by Christianity, believers - whatever their religion - act politically out of their conviction as believers. Whether you ban Sharia from politics or not, Muslims will continue to act in ways that are consistent with their understanding of Sharia. You cannot prevent that possibility unless you disenfranchise Muslims. source...

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Saudi Arabia signals a shift in its policy, advises the Syrian opposition faction it supports to come up with new strategy guided by the fact that Assad will be in power for the foreseeable future

    Sunday, August 06, 2017   No comments
In an interview on Almayadeen, a member of the Syrian Opposition faction supported by Saudi Arabia, Ahmad Asrawi, the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir has advised the group to rethink their political strategy to factor in the possibility that the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, will remain in power. Jubeir signaled that the new Saudi position is guided by the idea that the future of Assad, like that of Syria, is entirely in the "hands of Syrians, not the Saudis."

 Al Asrawi said that Al Jubeir assured them that that Supreme Council of Saudi Arabia supports any efforts, aimed at finding a political solution in Syria, a solution wherein Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity remain intact. 

  
According to Asrawi, Al Jubeir said that the international community's approach to fight terrorism in the wake of terrorist act that devastated the French capital city of Paris, is not right and has led to the killing of dozens of people.

Hours after the interview was aired, the Saudi Foreign Ministry released a statement claiming that the information is inaccurate and stressing that there is no change of policy: Saudi Arabia does not see a future Syria with Assad in charge.
   



This new development is reflective of the new reality in which the Syrian government and its allies are gaining more ground while opposition forces are engaged in infighting and looking for way out of a war they now know cannot be won.
Some rebel groups decided to move from Syria's eastern country side to Kurdish control areas and form a new army they want to call Syria's liberation army. Others refused to move and formed a second coalition that will continue fighting the government. Meanwhile, Islamists in Idlib continue to fight each other. The Syrian army and its allies are closing in on ISIL's stronghold, Deir Ez zor.



Syrian troops are advancing towards Deir Ez Zour from the northwest and southeast.




Wednesday, August 02, 2017

U.S. to handover Tanf base to Russia, attempt to collect weapons it gave Syrian rebels, many are surrendering to Syrian armed forces

    Wednesday, August 02, 2017   No comments
On the same day Trump signed Russia sanctions bill, it was reported that U.S. and Russian negotiators were working on a plan that would lead to US withdrawing American forces from al-Tanf and handing over its control to Russia. 


According to some reports, the talks took place in Jordan over many weeks and when the news of the meeting reached the Syrian rebels affiliated with the U.S., several groups that are affiliated with the Free Army Syrian Army (FSA) and trained by U.S. defected.

Al-Thawra members decided to leave al-Tanf after they were informed of the US-Russia possible agreement and the Syrian army's massive operations to free the Northern parts of Sweida province, a number of them have surrendered to the Syrian troops.

Sources affiliated with opposition groups disclosed on Wednesday that another group backed by the US army surrendered to the Syrian Army troops in al-Tanf region in Southern Homs. The group of al-Thowrah brigade has fled its positions in al-Tanf region and surrendered to the Syrian Army troops with their arms and military equipment. A Syrian army commander said that several groups of Jeish Maqawir al-Thowrah have handed over their weapons and military hardware to the army men after they surrendered. This trend, apparently, prompted the U.S. to start a process of taking back the weapons it gave the rebels.

One of the commanders of Jaysh Maqawir al-Thowrah in Syria's Badiyeh (desert) with the nom de guerre Haws al-Forati along with 30 of his forces fled the militant-held regions. The fleeing militants took a number of weapons, vehicles and munitions with them while fleeing.

U.S. military and CIA agents have trained Syrian rebels and equipped them with weapons and communication devices over the past six years. Most recently, it established a base on the Jordanian-Syrian-Iraqi border with the aim of connecting much of southern Syria to the Kurdish-held northern region. That plan fell apart after the Syrian troops and their allies cut them off during the last eight months and essentially restricted them to desert (seem attached map).

 









  
   

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

US Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk links Ankara to terror groups in Syria, Turkey angrily denies it

    Tuesday, August 01, 2017   No comments
Brett McGurk claimed the city of Idlib had turned into a "safe zone for al-Qaeda terrorists on the Turkish border".

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin on Monday criticized statements by the U.S. anti-Daesh coalition envoy that linked Turkey to terror groups operating in northwestern Syria.

Speaking Friday at a panel on U.S. President Donald Trump's fight against terrorism at the Middle East Institute in Washington, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh Brett McGurk claimed the city of Idlib had turned into a "safe zone for al-Qaeda terrorists on the Turkish border".

Kalin took exception to those remarks. "The terroristic structure in Idlib cannot be associated with Turkey," he said, speaking to Turkey’s TV Net. "Why? Because we do not control Idlib. There are Americans there, YPG there, [around Idlib]. There are Russians and regime forces," said Kalin... source

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