Questions for Debate – The US Hikers detained in Iran

The story of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal is well-known.  The three hikers were detained by Iranian authorities and now held without trial for over 12 months.   The lack of charges and the claims of spying by the Iranian Government has become a political issue as much as a human rights issue for the families of the three.

I have raised the issue here because of two questions in my opinion need to be aired and answered.

Politics

How much has the issue been politicized by us in the West because of the current anti-Iranian and nuclear issue, is politics and agenda taking over the issue?   To put it more bluntly, is the support for the three for their human rights by many public figures or is it for other reasons?   The very respectable archbishop Desmond Tutu makes the demand and I respect that his motives are honest and clear enough, but some including those within the US Administration I have doubts.  For the families of the three, they would rightly not care about the politics and if it rides on the back of political agenda games, all the better for them if it comes to a result.

It should be pointed out that the three are “anti-war, social justice and Palestinian solidarity activists” with one being a well known left-wing activist and journalist.  That raises the next question:

Events

We here a great deal about their plight, the inhumanity they are suffering, but not much about why and how they were picked up.   Hikers straying over the border sounds fine alone, until one looks at the matter more closely.  I ask only one simple question that as far as I have seen has not been answered that frankly is a point Iranians are using:   

Who goes camping/hiking in a country with war, lawlessness and terrorism let alone the kidnapping, torture and murder of foreigners?   That region of Kurdistan is reasonably peaceful, but all watch-lists including from the US government said it is still a high-risk area prone to situation changes.  Was it just a visit to a waterfall?

As mentioned, this has not been clearly answered, and if one takes away the political agendas and media hype, a very constant and unanswered question is raised that many outside America are asking.   What is the truth?   They certainly do not look like idiots unaware of the dangers of stepping in that country, let alone entering danger zones.  They appear not to be “religious zealots” looking to convert locals as if that was the case, then they would be fools, repugnant and insulting and should have been charged as such. 

As activists with known political links, they may very well have gone for “some cause” which is not clear.  A scoop, a story to come back with.   The only alternative is the spy charges, which is doubtful, the US is not that unprofessional to do so.  

Was it tourism?

One French commentator I heard on radio said that it may very well be the combination of political agendas to cause an incident to justify more condemnation.   I have not seen evidence in either direction and no common sense in the matter and just political agenda from both sides and being played to the max.  The victims may not even be the three, but most certainly their families are suffering.

What do you think?  I will make a comment on the official website set up for the three telling them of these questions, in the hope of some comment and shedding of badly needed light on the matters.

Advertisements

Dove World Outreach Center – Radical Christian Hate Mongers

The Dove World Outreach Center is not new to controversy, they have been active for years issuing “Islam is of the Devil”  T-Shirts, condemning homosexuality with near violence, condemning basically anything or anyone that disagrees with them, to put it simply – nothing really “dove” like at all.

They now plan on September 11 to burn copies of the Muslim Koran in stark defiance to the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) whom said in a statement:

“The NAE calls on its members to cultivate relationships of trust and respect with our neighbors of other faiths. God created human beings in his image, and therefore all should be treated with dignity and respect”

The leader of Dove World Outreach Center is Pastor Dr Terry Jones, author of “Islam is of the Devil“, a hate-for-profit book that simply claims examples of historical events as some form of devilish proof (and conveniently ignoring the equally ugly history of Christianity) and then tying it to literal and fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible.   It is ironic that much, if not most, of Islam’s problems is with equally ugly individuals taking religious texts in a literal and fundamentalists manner.  He blames Islam for 9/11……

If we try to consider the logic behind such an ugly and frankly un-Christian excercise, we can only come to a number of conclusions.

a) He and his wife (why is it always the most successful fruitcake profiteering Evangelists are a husband & wife combo?) are seeking controversy to catch dollars because it sells so well.  

b) They are truly radical fundamentalists and simply blinded.

Why I think it is the former and not the latter is because of the book by Jones.  We must assume that he had to do some research to write a book and then in that case he knows his work is a lie.  He follows the baseless lines that other hate-for-profiteers do by noting the acts of (other) radicals and extremists and then assuming that all Muslims are as such.  Alternatively, following the Spencer-farce by pushing that the radical Islamists are obviously real Muslims and the rest are heretics.    Jones may very well have written his book from inside his closet and based all of his work on guess works and from questionable bloggers like Spencer, either way even the most closed mind that bothers to look at the world knows it is pure rubbish.

I personally do not care if a group of obviously blinded radical evangelists with a lack of knowledge and facts burns books, though it is ugly and hurtful to the Muslims, but what it most certainly will do is be used as proof by the just-as-ugly radical Islamists as proof that Christian America is on a Crusade to wage war on Islam and thus they must do the same.

Thanks Dr Jones, you have done everything to make sure the division stays and gets worse.

Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam

I wonder what the much more famous and respectable Terry Jones would think about this person, considering he directed The Life of Brian and the best of the very sacriligeous Monty Python sketches, including the “not the Spanish Inquisition” skits.

Question for Debate: When does religious views cross the line?

I read in DutchNews.nl today an item called “Bible Belt says no to football on Sunday, whatever the occasion” which at first I thought was just “a bit funny” and then started wondering.  

As it is not a long item so I will quote it in full, with full acknowledgement and respect to DutchNews.nl.

Friday 09 July 2010

The Netherlands may be on the brink of its first football World Cup title, but in some parts of the Dutch Bible Belt, watching tv on a Sunday is totally forbidden, the Telegraaf points out on Friday.

And Kees van der Staaij, leader of the fundamentalist Protestant party SGP is one of those who will not be following events in South Africa.

‘Absolutely not,’ a spokesman told the Telegraaf. ‘He may watch television occasionally for work but never to relax and absolutely not on Sunday.’

In the village of Urk, which has 20 plus churches for its population of 17,000, three cafes have aroused the ire of religious leaders for deciding to open their doors during the match.

But in the Bible Belt heartland of Staphorst people who actually have a tv will watch quietly at home, a town council spokeswoman said. ‘Someone might run outside with a tooter, but they will go back in again straight away’.

In the village of Elburg the local minister has prayed for Oranje to lose. He has even advised parents to put a filter on their children’s computers so they do not watch such a ‘sinful’ match. © DutchNews.nl

What does this item tell us?    For me, many things.  I dislike the SGP for many reasons, that they want to ban women from any public office being amongst them.   Having said that, the right to religious belief is a fundamental principle that I share with my country and consider that sacred.  The question does comes at what point does a faith that control the lives of its followers cross over the line of the rules, standards and morals of the country as a whole.  Also when does those followers start impacting on those that disagree with that faith’s standards?  History, recent past and even the present has endless examples of what that causes around our now very small planet.

We all know the grave problem of how radical Islamism forces not only other Muslims to follow a certain line, but how it also makes unwarranted and unjustified demands on western societies that these radicals are present in.  That radicalism is not only subject of media attention, albeit much real and some often exaggerated, but it is also used and abused by other radicals to fulfill their own ugly agendas.  My blog is full of such examples.   Nevertheless, if radical Islamists are willing to go that far, what about Christian Fundamentalist groupings like that which the SGP represent –  will they go that far if they are able to get away with it?

That is the question that I wish readers to consider.   What would happen say if the SGP took the second largest number of voters or the largest?    They would demand women not be allowed to take public office, that is a clear agenda platform – even though that would require a constitutional alteration.   Would they forbid football on Sundays?  Would they force Christian teachings in Government Schools?  Would they limit or ban non-Christian schools?   Limit the growth, sponsorship and funding of non-Christian organisations that are involved in serious community work?

What is the limit when a community thinks something is sinful and requires actions?    My concern is that groups like the SGP will, as a result of economic and social issues, become more radicalized with the extreme members having more influence in policy.  That they will grow like the PVV (or perhaps take some of the PVV votes as and when that ugly abomination collapses) and that their numbers will grow to a significant level to create a lobby group with just enough clout to make trouble.   What will happen, I fear, is that they will have enough influence to have a say, a hearing of sorts, but because their principles are a “matter of faith” and a “matter of God’s Will in their batle against what they call sin”, that they will feel OBLIGED to take matters into their own hands.

The subject in that item might seem to be about football, but it raises a very interesting question.  Though tolerance, human rights and freedom of expression are the normal accepted standards of my country, our history has often shown otherwise.  In our more recent past a siginficant enough number of my country along with a number of others, sided with Hitler and embraced even Nazism.  Further back it should never be forgotten that the apartheid movement, organized racism and much of European’s ugly history in Africa stemmed directly from the guidence and followers of the Dutch Reformed Church.

What do you think?

Summer-Time, Posts and Off-Topic

Hi all.

I have been a bit irregular in my  postings and simply put it is a combination of last-minute work requirements, my desire to watch football and trying to get some form of Summer Vacation, even if broken into segments.

Travelling to see clients and check-up visits to our offices overseas (I have now an office in both Casablanca and Istanbul) is fun for about the first two days in each location and then simply I miss my wife and kids.  Interestingly, coming back to Rotterdam does not make for a rest though.  My staff are great and everything is ready, but the trips overseas generates report writing, follow-up emails and calls and the endless discussion with the providers.  Defence procurement is an exiting business but in the end, it is just sales and after-sales service.

As someone who has grown-up with football (I have family directly in the playing and coaching sides of first grade Dutch football) you would imagine that the World Cup is dominating my time and mind.  That has not transpired, not for a lack of trying.   I missed the first week due to travel, watched bits and pieces of the second, got the third, missed the knock-out but did get through friends a ticket for the quarter finals which, if Holland did well enough, should be in it.   They did, I got to jump on a flight, watch a match, stay with a friend who lives there for the night and was on the next flight back.   It was great, the vuvuzelas gave me a migraine for two days, I was tired but in the end I can say I was there and did it and watched my country progress.   They have progressed even further and I hope into the history books at last.

One thing that I have discovered over the almost 30 years of work is the need for a good planned vacation.  I used to be a “Greece Person” going to Corfu, more recently to Croatia and Macedonia – which I recommend to anyone who can.    I do not go to North Africa, Turkey or The Lebanon because I go there often and at least once a year I can afford on an extra-long weekend to bring the Family – so they know it.       Two years ago I changed everything, and through some friends – actually business contacts – I purchased an on-site Caravan near Malmo in Sweden.   Why would I do that with all the exciting places I can go to?  That is easy actually and probably you have all worked it out, Scandinavia is a beautiful place and during Summer is something that “wakes-up” after a long cold winter.  That I do get to go to the Mediterranean often means that it will never be that special, and I prefer to go to places that are quiet and not full of tourists like Greece is.  My last two times to the Croatian coast and Macedonia was wonderful but the tourists are heading that way to, so why not go a bit simple and go with the caravan, forests, lakes and yes, even beach – well stony but still beach.     I am now there,  my tired, slow but still functioning mobile internet card from Casablanca is serving me and that is all I care about.    I write this in front of my bbq, siting on a deck chair, my kids are getting hungry and tomorrow or the next day maybe we will drive to Helsinki Finland for a day after a day on a cruise-ship.  The problem with that plan is how and in which location do I want to celebrate Holland’s World Cup victory?

Donny vdH

Question for Debate: Israeli’s Settlements – Legitimacy and Size

Below is an item republished in full from Amy Teibel, an Associated Press Writer, called ” Israeli settlements cover 42 percent of West Bank(full aknowledgement given).  It explains that Israeli Human Rights Group “B’Tselem” says the figure as high as 42 per cent of the West Bank is now in control of Israeli Settlers.  Of course Settlers argue that it is not so and only 9 per cent is controlled by them.  

source: opendemocracy.net

 

What do you think?   We know that much of the driving force behind the Settler Movement is in fact ultra-orthodox religious zeal, and that their claims to settlements is based on the assumption that all of the West Bank is in fact the God-Given Israel of ancient times.   At the same time, B’Tselem is not Palestinian nor is it Muslim, so for what reason would they point this information out?  They are well respected, award winning and the only criticism (and to a degree violence towards them) appears to only come from pro-Settlement organisations, the Settlers themselves and members of the far-right in government and the Israeli military (of which much of BTselem’s criticism gives.   It would be correct to say that Settlements continue, that is as aparant as the existance of an internationally condemned blockade on Gaza.

So the questions are, who do we believe?  What is the motives for such a figure?  What are the implications of such a figure?

JERUSALEM – Jewish settlements control more than 42 percent of the West Bank, and much of that land was seized from Palestinian landowners in defiance of an Israeli Supreme Court ban, an Israeli human rights group said Tuesday.

The group’s findings echo what other anti-settlement activists have claimed in the past: That settlements have taken over lands far beyond their immediate perimeters, sometimes from private Palestinians. Israel’s settlements have been a much-criticized enterprise throughout the decades and a major obstacle to peacemaking with the Palestinians.

“The extensive geographic-spatial changes that Israel has made in the landscape of the West Bank undermine the negotiations that Israel has conducted for 18 years with the Palestinians and breach its international obligations,” the B’Tselem group said in a summary of its report.

Settlers disputed the figures and said the report by the B’Tselem group was politically motivated. Israeli officials had no comment.

The report was based on official state documents, including military maps and a military settlement database, the B’Tselem said.

Although the actual buildings of the settlements cover just 1 percent of the West Bank’s land area, their jurisdiction and regional councils extends to more than 42 percent, the group added.

Twenty-one percent of the land for these settlements was seized from Palestinian landowners, much of it after Israel’s Supreme Court outlawed the practice in 1979.

Dani Dayan, chairman of the settlers council, said settlements control just 9.2 percent of the West Bank, not 42 percent.

“It’s a political report by an organization that has been taken over the most radical anti-Israel elements,” Dayan said. “The whole point is to sabotage the meeting between (Israeli Prime Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama.”

Netanyahu was en route Tuesday to Washington, where he was due to meet with Obama later in the day to discuss advancing peacemaking and other regional issues.

Some 300,000 Jews live in West Bank settlements and an additional 180,000 live in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. Israel captured both territories from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians envision all three areas for a future state.