LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Wealth and the Real Nature Of People
Elias Bejjani/Wealth exposes the real nature of people. Those who are evil, wealth makes them worst than the devil himself, and those who are righteous, wealth increases their righteousness. Meanwhile the Bible teaches us that we can't worship both God and Money at the same time. Back home in Lebanon we have a proverb that says: Those evil ones who become rich spend their entire lives in misery and just guarding their wealth without enjoying it or helping others to make them happy .
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For March 03/14
Patriarch Al Raei Can't give what he does not Possess/Elias Bejjani/02 March/14
Ukraine crisis tests Obama’s foreign policy focus on diplomacy over military force/By Scott Wilson/March 03/14
The Rise and Fall of the Muslim Brotherhood/By: Amal Mousa/Asharq Alawsat/March 03/14
The Rising Sex Traffic in Forced Islamic Marriage/By:
Mark Durie/Quadrant Online/March 03/14
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 03/14
Lebanese Related News
Global, internal crises blocking Lebanon's Cabinet policy statement
Hezbollah: New government should include 'resistance' in agenda
Sleiman-Hezbollah spat clouds policy talks
Lebanon Does Not Exist, is Worthless without the Resistance
Hizbullah Says Baabda Palace Requires 'Special Care,' Suleiman Responds: We Need
Acknowledging Consensus over Declaration
Qaouq: We Reject Any Policy Statement that Satisfies Israel
Sami Gemayel Voices Solidarity with Suleiman, Says 'Campaign against him Not Fair'
Report: Hizbullah Seeks to Block Extension of Suleiman's Tenure
Hezbollah main suspect in Golan Heights rocket attack
Hezbollah's Anti Lebanon Nature: Dangerous turbulence
Tunisian Arrested for Trying to Enter Qalamoun from Arsal
Arsal Man Who Sent al-Labweh Bomb-Laden Car Killed in Syria
Lebanese Patriotic Activists propose alternative to Fouad Boutros highway
Contacts Underway in Bid to Reach Settlement over Policy Statement
Gunfire by Israeli Army Exercises Cross Lebanon Border
Israel Ups Security at Embassies as Hizbullah Backlash Feared
Al-Rahi Calls on Rival Parties to Agree on Non-Controversial Policy Statement
Army Foils Attempt to Smuggle Wanted Suspect in Tripoli
Alleged Bid to Assassinate Berri Aims at Inciting Sunni-Shiite Strife
Saniora Urges Mustaqbal MPs Not to Enter into Debate with March 8 Coalition
Waves of weapons smuggling in north Lebanon
Car bomb provider killed in Yabroud, Syria
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Statement By The Canadaian PM On the Situation In Ukrain
Ukraine calls up reserves against Russia. Putin spurns Obama’s call to de-escalate with fallout on Mid East
NATO Wants International Observers Sent to Ukraine
U.S. Says Russia May Lose G8 Seat over Ukraine, Putin Agrees to Dialogue with 'Contact Group'
Ukraine Navy Chief Defects to Crimea as Kiev Mobilizes Army and West Warns Moscow
Ukraine’s future hangs in the balance
Saudi Women Activists Demand End to 'Absolute' Male Control
PM Says Security is Top Priority for New Egypt Government
Clashes shatter truce in Syria’s Yarmouk
2 MPs Shot as Dozens of Protesters Storm Libya Parliament
Hezbollah's Anti Lebanon Nature: Dangerous turbulence
March 03, 2014/The Daily Star
A verbal spat between President Michel Sleiman and Hezbollah emerged over the weekend, although the development came as no surprise to anyone who has been following the efforts to draft the new Cabinet’s policy statement. But since the situation in Lebanon is fragile at best, any political bump in the road can create more dangerous turbulence. In recent days and weeks, Sleiman has made it crystal clear he has strong views about how the policy statement should treat foreign policy and the priority that should be given to the Baabda Declaration. Meanwhile, Hezbollah has shown its determination to include mention of the right to resistance in the new government’s statement, ignoring reservations some have about how this weakens the Lebanese state. On one level, it isn’t surprising to see Sleiman subjected to this level of criticism, since it often happens during the last few months of a sitting president’s term. But it’s also not surprising to see Hezbollah reverting to its usual rigid policy. The party, under duress, agreed to participate in Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s Cabinet, but believes its massive rocket arsenal and direct involvement in the Syrian war are isolated from all other domestic and regional factors. The tug-of-war over foreign policy has been ongoing since the Baabda Declaration was unveiled in 2012, and the latest hard-line stance taken by Hezbollah only boosts the perception that it is satisfied with Lebanon’s continued state of political paralysis. More importantly, the dispute has jeopardized hopes of the government winning confidence in Parliament, and the clock is ticking.
BEIRUT: Hezbollah over the weekend took an unprecedented swipe at President Michel Sleiman, saying the Lebanese leader required “specialized care,” a day after the head of state implicitly slammed the party’s “army, people, resistance” formula as hindering the release of the Cabinet policy statement. “With all due respect to the office of the president ... the latest speech we heard makes us believe that Baabda Palace in the days left [of the presidency] needs specialized care because its occupant cannot differentiate anymore between gold and wood,” Hezbollah said in a statement Saturday. During a speech at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK) Friday, Sleiman implicitly urged Hezbollah to cede ground over the divisive tripartite “army, people, resistance” formula, saying all sides needed to avoid clinging “to wooden [inflexible] equations that hinder the birth of this [ministerial] statement.” Shortly after Hezbollah’s comments, Sleiman reiterated in a Twitter post the need for adherence to the Baabda Declaration, a pact between rival political leaders to distance Lebanon from regional turmoil, particularly in Syria. “ Baabda Palace needs that the decisions that have been taken unanimously, namely the Baabda Declaration, be recognized,” Sleiman tweeted. The 2012 agreement reached at the Presidential Palace was breached when Hezbollah acknowledged sending fighters to Syria to back forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. Lebanon’s political rivals have yet to reach a deal over the new Cabinet’s policy statement. The March 14 camp rejects including the “army-people-resistance” formula, which their March 8 rivals insist upon. Hezbollah’s criticism of the president drew swift reactions from various parties and officials who voiced support to Sleiman.
In a statement Saturday, the Kataeb Party said it rejected “considering the presidency as a [political] side and waving political weapons at it, whether directly or through employing the services of pens and stances.”
“It is forbidden to refer to the president as the occupant of Baabda Palace because President Michel Sleiman is the president of all Lebanon,” Harb said in a statement. Voicing a similar stance, Information Minister Ramzi Joreige said Hezbollah needed “to drop this rhetoric of confrontation.” Deputy Speaker Farid Makari also decried what he described as a “provocative statement” by Hezbollah. “Such statements are not only offensive to the president and the post of the president but also to the positive, calm atmosphere that led to the formation of the Cabinet,” he said. “What we have in Baabda Palace today is a golden president,” said Makari, adding that Sleiman’s “name will be remembered in Lebanon’s modern history” because of the Baabda Declaration which he said had “helped set the future path” of the country.
by Naharnet Newsdesk 02 March 2014/Hizullah is seeking to prevent any attempts to renew the tenure of President Michel Suleiman by targeting him directly in its statements, media reports said on Sunday. Sources said in comments published in An Nahar newspaper on Sunday that the strong rhetoric that Hizbullah used in its statement on Saturday to reply to Suleiman's remarks was “unprecedented.” The sources said that the positivity that loomed over the formation of Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet is not expected to be applied on the rest of the constitutional deadlines, including the presidential elections. The sources expressed fear over the “possible vacuum at the presidential post if the political arch-foes failed to agree on the cabinet's policy statement.” Suleiman’s tenure ends in May 2014, but the constitutional period to elect a new head of state begins on March 25, two months prior to the expiration of Suleiman’s mandate. On Saturday, Hizbullah and the president were at loggerheads over Suleiman's recent statement concerning the cabinet's policy statement.
Suleiman said Friday that the land, people and common values formed the country's “permanent equation,” describing that the people-army-resistance equation as “wood.” Hizbullah's slammed on Saturday Suleiman's comments, accusing him of not being able to differentiate between “what's golden and what's wooden.” The party said that Baabda Palace has come to require “special care." Suleiman replied via twitter saying that what Baabda Palace needs is acknowledging the unanimous consensus over the Baabda Declaration that was reached inside its premises. Presidency sources told the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that “differences between the political foes already existed before the debate between Suleiman and Hizbullah.”The sources stressed that consultation between the rival parties over the ministerial statement are ongoing without ruling out the possibility or consensus over a “general and brief policy statement,” which would exclude the controversial details and matters. The panel drafting the ministerial policy statement failed during its sixth session on Wednesday to reach agreement over the main points of contention. The rival ministers bickered anew over the Baabda declaration and the resistance-people-army equation, failing to make any progress. If Prime Minister Tammam Salam's government, which was announced on February 15, fails to attain the parliament's confidence it will become a caretaker cabinet.
Gemayel expressed resentment over the “unfair campaign” against the President during the telephone conversation. “The party supports you and all our capabilities are at you disposal in order to fortify the state and return to it,” Gemayel told Suleiman. He expressed hope that the upcoming stage will include more cooperation. On Saturday, Hizbullah and the president were at loggerheads over Suleiman's recent statement concerning the cabinet's policy statement. Suleiman said Friday that the land, people and common values formed the country's “permanent equation,” describing that the people-army-resistance equation as “wood.”Hizbullah's slammed on Saturday Suleiman's comments, accusing him of not being able to differentiate between “what's golden and what's wooden.” The party said that Baabda Palace has come to require “special care."
Hezbollah: New government should include 'resistance' in agenda
Ynetnews Published: 03.02.14, 00:13 / Israel News /Hezbollah demands 'the right of Lebanon and the Lebanese people to self-defense and to the resistance against the Israeli enemy' be enshrined in new Lebanese cabinet's official agenda Lebanon's newly formed government still needs to publish its ministerial statement – a statement outlining the government's formation and agenda – and Hezbollah is demanding it include resistance to Israel.
The statement must be approved by Lebanon's parliament, and its failure to pass is equivalent to a vote of non-confidence. Now, senior representatives from the March 8 bloc – which includes Hezbollah – are demanding that the statement include “the right of Lebanon and the Lebanese people to self-defense and to the resistance against the Israeli enemy.” The opposing March 14 political bloc prefers “Lebanon’s right to defend itself,” NOW Lebanon reported. According to the report, the role of “the resistance” against Israel is the challenge facing the committee in charge of drafting statement. Lebanon's new cabinet was formed after months of political stalemate. According to NOW Lebanon, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem stressed the importance of acknowledging the resistance in the ministerial statement. “The resistance is one of the main pillars of the ministerial statement,” the National News Agency quoted Qassem as saying. “The ministerial statement would not be consistent if it did not acknowledge the resistance. The most honest and realistic ministerial statement is the one that states resistance (to Israel),” NOW Lebanon reported him as adding. On Saturday, Hezbollah slammed Lebanese President Michel Suleiman for his hinted criticism at the terror group's demand when he said it was important "not clinging to wooden formulas that hinder the drafting of the ministerial statement.” In response, Hezbollah said that "With all our due respect to the presidency and what it represents, the latest speech delivered makes us believe that (the presidency) has recently been in need of special care, since its occupier cannot differentiate anymore between gold and wood," the statement said. According to NOW Lebanon, Suleiman quickly responded on Twitter, saying that the presidency needs "recognition of the decisions that had been unanimously taken, namely the Baabda Declaration" – an agreement to keep Lebanon neutral from regional developments, a reference to Hezbollah's ongoing involvement in the Syrian conflict.
Global, internal crises blocking policy statement
March 03, 2014/By Antoine Ghattas Saab The Daily Star
Hezbollah’s unprecedented criticism of President Michel Sleiman after he spoke out against the “Army, people, resistance” formula has precipitated a new stage in internal relations, in which demands are escalating fast.
On the eve of the eighth round of talks aimed at drafting a ministerial statement, Hezbollah sought assurances from those involved on the legitimacy of two points: its weapons and its involvement in the Syrian conflict fighting alongside President Bashar Assad’s regime. Sources at Baabda Palace refused to comment on Hezbollah’s statement, citing the need to respect the plurality of opinions and the rules of democracy.
However, a high-ranking source close to the presidency told The Daily Star, “The entire issue revolves around one point, the Baabda Declaration, and Hezbollah is challenging its international legitimacy by refusing it. It is flouting the interests of the Lebanese, and placing the successive conferences to support Lebanon in the danger of not taking place for the simple reason that the principles of the declaration have become a necessary condition for the provision of a safe and stable environment that allows for securing aid for Lebanese authorities.”But those familiar with the vagaries of the Lebanese political scene know that this sudden escalation right after the “quick” formation of a Cabinet is aimed at preparing for the next round of internal conflict: the presidential elections. Even before Sleiman’s comments, information from multiple parties revealed the ministerial policy statement debate had about a month to produce a consensus before the current Cabinet is turned into a caretaker one to run the country’s affairs until the results of the Syrian conflict become clearer.
Political sources revealed that a number of regional and international developments had also contributed to local tensions, the most prominent of which was the failure of the Geneva II talks and its negative repercussions on Syria. Sources also pointed to the effect of the crisis in Ukraine, including Russia’s intervention and Western warnings to Moscow about the consequences.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is likely to take advantage of his participation in the International Support Group for Lebanon next Wednesday to meet with his American counterpart John Kerry and discuss the consequences of the Ukrainian conflict with him. On a domestic and regional level, the Israeli air raid on the Syrian-Lebanese border targeting a Hezbollah post and a weapons convoy has also contributed to the stalled negotiations of the ministerial statement. This development was complicated by the tough stance taken by the head of Iran’s Foreign Policy and National Security Committee Alaeddine Boroujerdi, which saw him confirm his country’s support for the resistance’s actions in both Lebanon and Syria. To make matters worse, the Israeli raid was followed by a Syrian airstrike on the outskirts of Arsal and Syrian rebels firing rockets at Brital.
All of these factors have shifted priorities and escalated the internal situation, prompting the most recent incident, which saw the March 8 bloc use the president’s statement on national constants at the Holy Spirit University to justify its political escalation and obstruct the drafting of the policy statement. It seems the Lebanese political scene has reverted to being a mailbox for fiery messages.
United States Ambassador David Hale, however, is continuing to encourage the resolution of the ministerial statement issue, especially given that this government won’t have enough time to implement any of its clauses. Sources also suggest that the U.S. supports a solution that would see the statement gutted of any controversial points and limited to general goals.
This was proposed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and backed by Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi. Health Minister Wael Abu Faour is working on this, under the mandate of Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblatt.
Saniora Urges Mustaqbal MPs Not to Enter into Debate with March 8 Coalition
Naharnet Newsdesk 02 March /14/Head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora called on lawmakers not to engage in an argument with the March 8 alliance over the controversial ministerial policy statement. According to the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, published on Sunday, the Mustaqbal movement wants to avoid further arguments with its political foes. In comments published in An Nahar newspaper, al-Mustaqbal Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq expected that discussions at the meetings of the ministerial panel tasked with drafting a policy statement will be “difficult” after President Michel Suleiman and Hizbullah were locked in a war of words over the matter. “Our stance is clear, the policy statement should set the defense strategy between the state and resistance,” Mashnouq told the daily. “Any remarks outside this context will not be adopted.”Asked if the spat between Suleiman and Hizbullah would have an impact on Monday's meeting of the ministerial panel, the minister said “there is still time to rectify the matter.”On Saturday, Hizbullah and the president were at loggerheads over Suleiman's recent statement concerning the cabinet's policy statement. Suleiman said Friday that the land, people and common values formed the country's “permanent equation,” describing that the people-army-resistance equation as “wood.”Hizbullah's slammed on Saturday Suleiman's comments, accusing him of not being able to differentiate between “what's golden and what's wooden.”The party said that Baabda Palace has come to require “special care."Suleiman replied via twitter saying that what Baabda Palace needs is acknowledging the unanimous consensus over the Baabda Declaration that was reached inside its premises. The president's suggestion comes as political foes in the country have not reached an agreement yet over the ministerial policy statement with the March 14 camp voicing rejection to the “army-people-resistance formula," which their March 8 rivals insist on
Lebanese Patriotic Activists propose alternative to Fouad Boutros highway
March 03, 2014/By Venetia Rainey The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Activists and residents are calling for the funding planned for the Fouad Boutros Highway in Ashrafieh to be spent instead on improving urban planning and public transport, after protests against the controversial project over the weekend drew hundreds. More than 2,300 people have signed an online petition against the project, which would see a 1.3-km four-lane highway built to link Ashrafieh’s Alfred Naccahe Road with Charles Helou Avenue by the Beirut Port. “The goal, the dream if you want, is to improve urban planning in Beirut,” Joana Hammour, project coordinator at non-governmental organization Nahnoo, said at the protest Sunday. “This project doesn’t take into account the urban fabric of the area, the environment or the people who live here.”“Our objective for the campaign is to stop the highway and build the Fouad Boutros Park,” Hammour said. “We need public spaces, not more roads. ... Public transport is what we should be focusing on, because there is a big lack of this.”
Around 300 people protested Saturday in Hikmeh against the highway, with 100 showing up for a second demonstration Sunday. “This is our home, our life,” local resident Amal Awad said indignantly. “I lived with my children and the rats underground during the Civil War, and we still didn’t leave this area. Now they are forcing us to leave it because they will demolish part of our building.” The project, which was originally proposed more than 40 years ago, is intended to ease congestion in Ashrafieh, but a civil coalition of NGOs, professionals and activists argues that it will in fact increase traffic by facilitating access for cars to the neighborhood. The coalition has suggested the government construct a tunnel under Charles Malek Avenue to link Downtown with Emile Lahoud Avenue in the east. It says this would do more to reduce congestion and cost less than the current plan. The coalition also points to the immense damage that will be done to a historical part of Beirut, with 30 buildings scheduled to be demolished and 10,000 square meters of gardens and orchards to be paved over. Activists warn that the quality of life would fall even for residents of buildings that would remain structurally intact. “I would live right next to this highway,” Joe al-Khoury said, as he gestured to a narrow, quiet backstreet. “It’s not just the noise that would be a problem, it’s the pollution, the access to my own flat. It would be unbearable. I would be forced to move if it happened.”Beirut Mayor Bilal Hamad told news website Elnashra Saturday that nothing would happen until a consultancy company finished conducting an environmental impact assessment. However, the Council for Development and Reconstruction is going ahead with preparations, according to coalition member Raja Noujain of the Association for the Protection of Lebanese Heritage.“So we are not going to work with the EIA until this stops,” he said. “Don’t worry, this is going to work. We are going to stop them.”But Noujain, like other members of the coalition, was keen to emphasize that they were looking to create something in place of the highway. “We will not let the project pass, but further, we have to replace it, because some 14,000 square meters of land has already been expropriated,” he said. “This is a golden opportunity.”
Hezbollah main suspect in Golan
Heights rocket attack
March 03, 2014/By Mohammed Zaatari The Daily Star
NAQOURA, Lebanon: The rocket attack on an Israeli post over the weekend is widely believed to be retaliation for airstrikes on a Hezbollah target near the Lebanese-Syrian border, security and military sources told The Daily Star Sunday. A report in the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot said the attack occurred Friday night, but wasn’t discovered until Saturday morning. “Two rockets exploded near an IDF outpost on Mount Hermon. It was discovered Saturday morning. No damage or injuries were caused,” the newspaper said. “At first it was thought the rockets were ‘spillover’ from the internal Syrian conflict, but later the possibility that the rockets were fired by Hezbollah in response to Israel’s alleged airstrike on its munitions last week was raised.” Multiple military and security sources, who refused to speak on the record due to the sensitivity of the situation, told The Daily Star that the rocket attack was most likely staged by Hezbollah in retaliation for last week’s airstrikes. Israeli planes bombed an area controlled by Hezbollah on Lebanon’s eastern border on Feb. 24, apparently targeting a “qualitative” weapons shipment to the party, a security source told The Daily Star last week. The source said Israeli planes launched four rockets on the Janta area in the mountains separating the Lebanese village of Nabi Sheet from the Syrian border. Fearing a retaliation, the Israeli army command consequently raised its alert level, with Yediot Ahronot reporting, “Troops on the Golan Heights were also instructed to raise the level of alert out of concern retaliatory strikes will come from the Syrian side of the border.” The rising tensions also led the Israeli military to change the type of vehicles used by troops patrolling the border, according to the Israeli newspaper, and Israeli soldiers securing the border were given armor-protected Humvees instead of the light defenders usually used. The newspaper said the alert level was also extended to Israeli embassies around the world.
Separately Sunday, a security source said that stray gunfire from Israel had damaged a vehicle in south Lebanon, adding that there were no casualties in the incident. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said at least one bullet struck a car belonging to Hussein Ali Tohem in the Bint Jbeil village of Ramieh. They said the source of the gunfire was the Bayyad area on the Israeli side of the border, where the Israeli army was believed to be conducting military exercises. The Israeli army spokesperson said his command was investigating the incident. United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said it was investigating the report.
“The situation in the region is calm,” he said.The Israeli army alert continued on the borders with Lebanon, with its soldiers deploying camouflaged in the orchards near the U.N.-demarcated Blue Line and in the occupied Shebaa Farms. Israel was also conducting regular drone flights above Lebanon’s southern regions.
Statement By The Canadian PM On the Situation In Ukrain
Ottawa, Ontario/1 March 2014
In response to the very serious developments today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper convened a meeting of Cabinet Ministers this afternoon, and spoke with President Obama, to discuss the situation in Ukraine. After the meeting, Prime Minister Harper issued the following statement:
“We join our allies in condemning in the strongest terms President Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine. These actions are a clear violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They are also in violation of Russia’s obligations under international law.
“Canada recognizes the legitimacy of the Government of Ukraine. Ukraine’s sovereign territory must be respected and the Ukrainian people must be free to determine their own future. We call on President Putin to immediately withdraw his forces to their bases and refrain from further provocative and dangerous actions.
“Canada has suspended its engagement in preparations for the G-8 Summit, currently planned for Sochi, and the Canadian Ambassador in Moscow is being recalled for consultations. Canada supports the immediate deployment of international monitors from the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to Ukraine. We are also engaged in discussions aimed at developing a financial aid package for Ukraine.
“We will continue to cooperate closely with our G-7 partners and other allies. Should President Putin continue on this course of action, it will lead to ongoing negative consequences for our bilateral relationship.”
Ukraine crisis tests Obama’s foreign policy focus on diplomacy over military force
By Scott Wilson, Updated: Saturday, March 01/14
For much of his time in office, President Obama has been accused by a mix of conservative hawks and liberal interventionists of overseeing a dangerous retreat from the world at a time when American influence is needed most.
The once-hopeful Arab Spring has staggered into civil war and military coup. China is stepping up territorial claims in the waters off East Asia. Longtime allies in Europe and in the Persian Gulf are worried by the inconsistency of a president who came to office promising the end of the United States’ post-Sept. 11 wars. Now Ukraine has emerged as a test of Obama’s argument that, far from weakening American power, he has enhanced it through smarter diplomacy, stronger alliances and a realism untainted by the ideology that guided his predecessor. It will be a hard argument for him to make, analysts say.
A president who has made clear to the American public that the “tide of war is receding” has also made clear to foreign leaders, including opportunists in Russia, that he has no appetite for a new one. What is left is a vacuum once filled, at least in part, by the possibility of American force. “If you are effectively taking the stick option off the table, then what are you left with?” said Andrew C. Kuchins, who heads the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I don’t think that Obama and his people really understand how others in the world are viewing his policies.”
Rarely has a threat from a U.S. president been dismissed as quickly — and comprehensively — as Obama’s warning Friday night to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The former community organizer and the former Cold Warrior share the barest of common interests, and their relationship has been defined far more by the vastly different ways they see everything from gay rights to history’s legacy.
Obama called Putin on Saturday and expressed “deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law,” the White House said.
From a White House podium late Friday, Obama told the Russian government that “there will be costs” for any military foray into Ukraine, including the semiautonomous region of Crimea, a strategically important peninsula on the Black Sea. Within hours, Putin asked the Russian parliament for approval to send forces into Ukraine. The vote endorsing his request was unanimous, Obama’s warning drowned out by lawmakers’ rousing rendition of Russia’s national anthem at the end of the session. Russian troops now control the Crimean Peninsula.
There are rarely good — or obvious — options in such a crisis. But the position Obama is in, confronting a brazenly defiant Russia and with few ways to meaningfully enforce his threat, has been years in the making. It is the product of his record in office and of the way he understands the period in which he is governing, at home and abroad. At the core of his quandary is the question that has arisen in White House debates over the Afghan withdrawal, the intervention in Libya and the conflict in Syria — how to end more than a dozen years of American war and maintain a credible military threat to protect U.S. interests. The signal Obama has sent — popular among his domestic political base, unsettling at times to U.S. allies — has been one of deep reluctance to use the heavily burdened American military, even when doing so would meet the criteria he has laid out. He did so most notably in the aftermath of the U.S.-led intervention in Libya nearly three years ago. But Obama’s rejection of U.S. military involvement in Syria’s civil war, in which 140,000 people have died since he first called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down, is the leading example of his second term. So, too, is the Pentagon budget proposal outlined this past week that would cut the size of the army to pre-2001 levels.
Inside the West Wing, there are two certainties that color any debate over intervention: that the country is exhausted by war and that the end of the longest of its post-Sept. 11 conflicts is less than a year away. Together they present a high bar for the use of military force.
Ukraine has challenged administration officials — and Obama’s assessment of the world — again.
At a North American summit meeting in Mexico last month, Obama said, “Our approach as the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia.”
But Putin’s quick move to a war footing suggests a different view — one in which, particularly in Russia’s back yard, the Cold War rivalry Putin was raised on is thriving.
The Russian president has made restoring his country’s international prestige the overarching goal of his foreign policy, and he has embraced military force as the means to do so.
As Russia’s prime minister in the late summer of 2008, he was considered the chief proponent of Russia’s military advance into Georgia, another former Soviet republic with a segment of the population nostalgic for Russian rule.
Obama, by contrast, made clear that a new emphasis on American values, after what were perceived as the excesses of the George W. Bush administration, would be his approach to rehabilitating U.S. stature overseas.
Those two outlooks have clashed repeatedly — in big and small ways — over the years.
Obama took office with a different Russian as president, Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s choice to succeed him in 2008.
Medvedev, like Obama, was a lawyer by training, and also like Obama he did not believe the Cold War rivalry between the two countries should define today’s relationship.
The Obama administration began the “reset” with Russia — a policy that, in essence, sought to emphasize areas such as nuclear nonproliferation, counterterrorism, trade and Iran’s nuclear program as shared interests worth cooperation. But despite some successes, including a new arms-control treaty, the reset never quite reduced the rivalry. When Putin returned to office in 2012, so, too, did an outlook fundamentally at odds with Obama’s.
Just months after his election, Putin declined to attend the Group of Eight meeting at Camp David, serving an early public warning to Obama that partnership was not a top priority.
At a G-8 meeting the following year in Northern Ireland, Obama and Putin met and made no headway toward resolving differences over Assad’s leadership of Syria. The two exchanged an awkward back-and-forth over Putin’s passion for martial arts before the Russian leader summed up the meeting: “Our opinions do not coincide,” he said.
A few months later, Putin granted asylum to Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor whose disclosure of the country’s vast eavesdropping program severely complicated U.S. diplomacy. Obama had asked for Snowden’s return. In response, Obama canceled a scheduled meeting in Moscow with Putin after the Group of 20 meeting in St. Petersburg last summer. The two met instead on the summit’s sidelines, again failing to resolve differences over Syria. It was Obama’s threat of a military strike, after the Syrian government’s second chemical attack crossed what Obama had called a “red line,” that prompted Putin to pressure Assad into concessions. The result was an agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, a process that is proceeding haltingly.
Since then, though, the relationship has again foundered on issues that expose the vastly different ways the two leaders see the world and their own political interests.
After Russia’s legislature passed anti-gay legislation, Obama included openly gay former athletes in the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
New barbarities in Syria’s civil war — and the near-collapse of a nascent peace process — have drawn sharper criticism from U.S. officials of Putin, who is continuing to arm Assad’s forces.
How Obama intends to prevent a Putin military push into Ukraine is complicated by the fact that, whatever action he takes, he does not want to jeopardize Russian cooperation on rolling back Iran’s nuclear program or completing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. Economic sanctions are a possibility. But that decision is largely in the hands of the European Union, given that its economic ties to Russia, particularly as a source of energy, are far greater than those of the United States. The most immediate threat that has surfaced: Obama could skip the G-8 meeting scheduled for June in Sochi, a day’s drive from Crimea. “If you want to take a symbolic step and deploy U.S. Navy ships closer to Crimea, that would, I think, make a difference in Russia’s calculations,” Kuchins said. “The problem with that is, are we really credible? Would we really risk a military conflict with Russia over Crimea-Ukraine? That’s the fundamental question in Washington and in Brussels we need to be asking ourselves.”
Opinion: The Rise and Fall of the Muslim Brotherhood
Amal Mousa/Asharq Alawsat
Just a few weeks ago, the talk about the Muslim Brotherhood focused on the group’s political collapse and its failure to rule. but there was a massive change, suddenly and without evidence, in terms of the general position towards the Brotherhood, with a number of parties designating it a terrorist organization.
It began in Egypt, where the interim authorities unilaterally designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. In addition to this, General Khalifa Haftar, a former commander of Libya’s armed forces, announced that “the real problem in Libya is the Muslim Brotherhood.” Most recently, in a step that came as a surprise to many, the joint leadership of the Free Syrian Army announced that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “terrorist” organization and banned its activities within Syrian territory.
It seems that the element of surprise has dominated the Brotherhood movement since the launch of the so-called Arab Spring. The Brotherhood benefited the most from the uprisings, whether in Tunisia, Egypt or Libya. In fact, we can even talk about a kind of “Brotherhoodization” of the Arab Spring and Islamization of its politics.
During the first year or so after the Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan revolutions, Muslim Brotherhood groups experienced a golden age during which their star was on the rise and they were able to dominate the polls.
The Brotherhood’s rise to power was shocking to the political elite, who generally oppose the ideology of political Islam. Its collapse, its inability to reach political consensus with other members of the political arena, not to mention its inexperience and lack of judgment, collectively contributed to destroying the political legitimacy of this group, despite the fact that it came to power via the ballot box. Thus the Brotherhood’s initial rise to power was only equaled by its subsequent collapse.
And just as quickly as it fell from power, its designation as a terrorist organization was just as quick, albeit less surprising even though just a few months ago the group was ruling the largest Arab country: Egypt.
I believe that what the Brotherhood has experienced in terms of the pace of its rise and fall, and later its isolation from political life in terms of its designation as a terrorist organization, deserve a deeper reading that will lead us to an objective, not political, understanding of the process. This has concluded today with the Brotherhood facing a radical rejection, which one could say has become semi-dominant across the Arab regional map. In fact, the whole point of this anti-Brotherhood attitude was escalation, namely that opponents of the Brotherhood, rather than politically isolating the Islamist group, preferred a pre-preemptive showdown. This led to the squeezing of the Brotherhood, nationally and internationally, after its designation as a terrorist organization.
Of course, we may be able to understand the speed of the Brotherhood’s fall, and its subsequent designation as a terrorist organization, when we look at the extent of the qualitative mistakes committed by the organizations and how their agenda was more Islamist than nationalist. And that is not to mention its frequent and shameless embroilment in the phenomena of doublespeak and doublethink.
The political rise of the Muslim Brotherhood groups was due to the fact that the post-revolutionary Arab states were experiencing a political vacuum that could only be filled, at that time, by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood capitalized on its public image as a group that, due to its struggle in the name of Islam, had suffered injustice, exile and imprisonment under the dictatorial regimes, particularly in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt prior to the Arab Spring. However, the problem with these groups is that they did not read reality in an objective way, and neither were they able to understand the real reasons behind their rise to power. In fact, even their adoption of the Turkish model of rule was only formal and superficial.
Today, after all the events that shaped the Brotherhood’s experience in the Arab world, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the Turkish model is parochial, and thus difficult to import. The Turkish model is not the product of a revolution as much as a gradual political movement and the fruit of a long and patient experience in Turkish democracy. The central concept that the state has no official religion characterizes the Turkish model. This concept has fortified the Turkish model against the idea of doublespeak and demonstrated the extent to which Turkey has benefited from Atatürk’s secular vision.
On the other hand, the Brotherhood in the Arab world chose to antagonize moderate and secular trends, preventing itself from benefiting from other ideologies, particularly when it came to the issue of power sharing. Of course, one must also not forget the crisis currently gripping the Turkish model.
I believe the ultra-conservative Salafist branch of Islamism has emerged victorious. This victory has led to the collapse of the Brotherhood, which is today widely declared a terrorist organization on the international level.
The Rising Sex Traffic in Forced Islamic Marriage
by Mark Durie/Quadrant Online/March 2014
In 2008, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and Nicholas Phillips, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, both suggested that the UK could consider, in Lord Phillips's words, "embracing Sharia law" because "there is no reason why Sharia Law, or any other religious code should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution". Williams commented: "it's not as if we're bringing in an alien and rival system".
However, two recent widely reported cases of marriage between Muslim men and under-age girls raise troubling questions about these assumptions. One case in New South Wales where an imam married a twelve-year-old girl to a twenty-six-year-old man with her father's consent is before the court.
In another case involving a custody battle, however, a judgment has been made that questions the way Western jurisdictions interact with sharia marriage regulations, specifically in relation to the widespread practice of conducting private, unregistered religious marriages. A Sydney Muslim girl aged fourteen was forced by her parents to become the child "bride" of a twenty-one-year-old man. Her mother had told her she would "get to attend theme parks and movies and eat lollies and ice-cream with her new husband". Instead she endured years of sexual and physical abuse and intimidation before fleeing with her young daughter. Her story only saw the light of day ten years after her wedding when she pursued custody of her daughter through the courts.
This "marriage" was never registered with the state: it would have been impossible to do so because the girl was too young to marry under Australian law. A particularly troubling aspect of her story is that she reported her predicament to her school teacher, who under Australian law was a mandatory reporter of child sex abuse, but it seems no report was made, and no intervention attempted.
In passing judgment in favour of the woman, Judge Harman invited the authorities to take matters further: the "groom" could be presumably be charged by the police with sexual offences against a child and placed on the sex offenders register. He and the girl's father—who in accordance with Islamic tradition would have been the two parties to the marriage contract—could also be charged with trafficking offences. There would also almost certainly have been an exchange of money—the mahr—handed over by the man to the girl or her father in accordance with Islamic law.
The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, defines people-trafficking as:
the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force, or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, [or] servitude … The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth [above] shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth [above] have been used.
The forced marriage of a fourteen-year-old girl, as reported in this Australian case, fits the definition of trafficking. The girl was transferred from the custody of parents to that of her "husband" by use of deception, and he then kept her for the purpose of sexual exploitation and servitude, controlling her by violence and threats.
Pru Goward, the New South Wales Minister for Community Services and Women, has reported that there are around a thousand cases a year across Australia of women and girls being trafficked into forced marriages. She stated, "No ethnic group has a monopoly on violence against women, but some groups experience violence against women disproportionately." Indeed. Some groups also perpetrate violence against women "disproportionately", and it might be more accurate to speak of "religious groups" rather than "ethnic groups". While there have been no official statistics reported on the religious affiliation of these victims of trafficking, it seems that a great many of the victims and the perpetrators involving in "marriage" trafficking have been Muslims.
Recent reports of a link between trafficking-for-marriage and Islamic marriages have not been limited to Australia. An investigation by ITV in the UK identified eighteen mosques—around one third of those approached by the reporter—where clerics were willing to conduct a wedding of a fourteen-year-old girl against her will.
Nazir Afal, Crown Prosecutor in the North of England, has reported that there are estimated to be 8000 to 10,000 forced marriages or threats of forced marriages of people against their will in the UK each year. Britain's Forced Marriage Unit handled 1485 cases in 2012, 35 per cent of which involved girls aged seventeen or younger, and 13 per cent where the girls were under fifteen. A British government survey found that hundreds of girls aged eleven to thirteen had simply disappeared from school rolls.
Governments have been very slow to tackle the trafficking of women and girls for the purpose of forced marriage. Kaye Quek, in a recent article in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations, argues that multicultural ideals prevalent in UK society have made the authorities reluctant to criminalise this practice: they have preferred instead to treat these liaisons as violations of the women's choice. Quek challenges the government's preference for seeking civil remedies to forced marriages, and suggests that this is giving rise to a two-tier system of rights, in which it is acceptable for Muslim women to be sexually assaulted through forced marriage.
In the case of forced Muslim marriages, a systemic problem is the widespread acceptance by the community of unregistered marriages: it is the lack of registration of such unions which makes marriage all the more dangerous for young women and girls, because registered marriages are subject to long-established age limits and procedures to establish consent, which provide a degree of protection to potential victims of marriage trafficking. The families and communities involved may consider such marriages to be legal, because they accord with their understanding of Islamic law, but the fact that these marriages are unregistered places the women and girls who undergo these ceremonies at higher risk of abuse.
Islamic marriage practices present multiple challenges to Western jurisdictions. The Koran states that men are the protectors of women (Sura 4:34). A marriage is normally a contract between two men: the male wali or guardian of the bride—usually her father—and the groom. In addition, to be lawful under sharia, a marriage must have two witnesses, and a sum of money, the mahr, must be given over by the groom. Marriage, thus contracted, is the transfer of a woman from the "protection" of one man to another.
If the wali is the woman's father or grandfather, he is considered to be a wali mujbir, literally a "forcing guardian", because he is permitted by Islamic law to force his daughter or grand-daughter into marriage. The word mujbir ("forcing") comes from an Arabic root which can mean "to set a broken bone", or, by extension, "to force". E.W. Lane, citing Arabic authorities, gives this explanation of the meaning of the word: "He compelled him, against his will, to do the thing … originally signifying the inciting, urging or inducing, another to restore a thing to a sound, right, or good, state." By this understanding, a forced marriage is an exercise of "therapeutic force", which is considered to be good for the woman. Like setting a broken bone, a forced marriage at a father or grandfather's behest "restores" the woman to her rightful state.
The Reliance of the Traveller, a manual of Sunni Islamic law from the Shafi'i school, states:
Guardians are of two types, those who may compel their female charges to marry someone, and those who may not. The only guardians who may compel their charge to marry are a virgin bride's father or father's father, compel meaning to marry her to a suitable match without her consent … Whenever the bride is a virgin, the father or father's father may marry her to someone without her permission, though it is recommended to ask her permission if she has reached puberty. A virgin's silence is considered as permission.
Note that The Reliance anticipates a context where a girl may be married off by her father before she reaches puberty; in this case it is not even recommended to ask her permission. In addition to fathers being permitted to force their virgin daughters into marriage against their will, Islamic law also permits polygamy and marriages of young girls, following the example of Muhammad, who consummated his marriage to Aisha when she was aged nine lunar years. (See Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 234).
In several other respects Islamic laws which regulate marriage, divorce and the custody of children render women vulnerable to abuse by their husbands and families.
Many Muslim states have enacted laws which limit the application of Islamic family law, for example by extending women's custody rights beyond those granted by the religion, requiring that a man seek permission from his current wife or wives before contracting further marriages, or limiting a husband's right to divorce his wife merely by a private pronouncement against her.
Because many features of Islam's marriage laws are incompatible with internationally accepted human rights standards, and some Muslim communities consider that Islamic law takes precedence over the law of the land in which they live, it is in the best interests of Muslim women living in the West if governments suppress unregistered religious marriages, and strictly regulate the conduct of Islamic marriages. All too often governments have legitimised and even rewarded unregisterable marriages through additional state benefits.
The phenomenon—and challenge—of unregistered Muslim marriages is by no means limited to Western states. The emergence of unregistered marriages as a social issue in the West is paralleled by the popularity of various kinds of marriage in the Middle East which evade the control of the state (see Consuming Desires by Frances Hasso). Although some Islamic countries require marriages to be registered with the state, many marriages go unregistered. For example, marriages known as nikah ufr ("customary marriages") have become popular among young Egyptian students who choose to live together as couples without the legal and social complications of a registered, public marriage. In Egypt a nikah ufr is in effect a clandestine religious ceremony, which normally takes place without the knowledge or consent of the bride's guardian, and without the husband having to pay a dowry. By this means a couple can protect themselves legally and religiously, for example against a serious charge of fornication, but not without risk to the woman. If the marriage contract is lost or destroyed, a woman may not be able to prove that the marriage has taken place, and if she becomes pregnant she may have no legal means of compelling her partner to support her and her child. A woman in an urfi marriage may also find it difficult to obtain a divorce, leading to the possibility that if she contracts a later marriage with another man, she could be convicted of polyandry or adultery, which are criminal offences in Egypt. In contrast, the man can marry again without risk, even if his urfi marriage is of unclear legal status, because Islam permits polygamy.
One of the challenges of the way sharia works in Islamic states is that the trend over recent decades has been to reinforce the principle that Islamic law takes precedence over state jurisprudence. In some cases national constitutions enshrine sharia law as above the constitution and the power of the state of legislate. For example, article three of the Afghan constitution states that "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam". This means that although a state may pass laws to regulate marriage, courts may not be able to declare unregistered Islamic marriages invalid, because official registration is not one of the recognised conditions in Islam for a marriage to be legitimate, and state law has no authority to overrule Islamic law. While states can discourage unregistered marriages in various ways—for example by denying certain kinds of legal privileges to unregistered couples—they are not able to deny the religious and hence social legitimacy of these contracts in a nation whose constitution grants sharia law precedence over laws made by the state, which Islamists call "man-made" laws.
A further difficulty with the ascendancy of sharia law in Islamic states is the complication of legal uncertainty, because issues in Islamic law are often subject to conflicting interpretations. For example, while the Hanafi school of jurisprudence states that a woman can marry without the approval of her guardian, subject to certain conditions, other Sunni legal schools consider such a marriage to be null and void. Thus a man and woman who contract a marriage without the permission of the bride's parents may or may not get the marriage recognised by the court, depending upon the legal opinion the judge chooses to follow.
In Western jurisdictions the regulation of marriages by the state is of comparatively recent origin. However, the idea of regulating religious marriages is hardly a new one. Public regulation of marriages in Europe was first enacted through canon (church) law: the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 required all marriages to be announced in advance in a church by a priest, "so that if legitimate impediments exist, they may be made known". The Council of Trent (1545–63) refined the requirements further: weddings had to be conducted by the parish priest of one of the two parties; banns—an announcement of the wedding—had to be "published" during three major public worship services; there had to be at least two witnesses apart from the priest; and clergy had to keep a marriage register, a book in which they recorded every wedding they performed. Both Councils' rulings on marriage were expressly designed to prevent "clandestine" marriages. The Council of Trent justified its provisions by citing the case of a man, having conducted a clandestine marriage, abandoning his first wife, and marrying another woman publicly.
In England state regulation of marriage was first introduced in 1753, also for the reason of preventing the notorious abuses of clandestine marriage, which were to the detriment of women. The legal recourse was to target unscrupulous clergy, some of whom had been making a handsome living from conducting such marriages.
The Marriage Act of 1753, formally named "An Act for the better preventing of clandestine Marriages", took over some of the provisions of canon law, such as the requirement for witnesses, the publication of banns, and the recording of marriages in a parish register "for publick use".
The purpose of the 1753 Act was to ensure that marriage was a well-documented public event which helped protect vulnerable women and children from unscrupulous men by curtailing the practice of people marrying secretly. Clandestine marriages were considered objectionable because women who entered into them were more vulnerable to desertion and sexual exploitation. Their secret character meant that there was no public process of testing of the man and woman's marital status before the ceremony. It could also turn out later that there was inadequate documentation of the clandestine ceremony, leaving a woman without legal recourse if she was abandoned after becoming pregnant or bearing children. In the famous 1748 case of Creswell v Creswell a wealthy heiress, Anne Warneford, discovered that her husband had been clandestinely married twice before, which rendered her public marriage to Thomas Creswell void and their several children illegitimate, with no entitlement to their father's estate.
Under the 1753 Act, a minister of religion who conducted a clandestine marriage was punishable by transportation "to some of His Majesty's Plantations in America for the space of fourteen Years". To forge, alter or destroy a marriage register became a hanging offence.
Such draconian punishments as deportation, hanging, or cropping the ears of offending clergy—the latter penalty applied on the Isle of Man from 1757—may seem repugnant today, but the point is that imposing harsh penalties upon those who conduct unregistered marriages has a long-standing precedent in law. First the church and then the state introduced penalties to help ensure that marriages took place as public events and were officially registered, in order to protect vulnerable women and their children.
Unfortunately in recent years Western jurisdictions have been largely indifferent to the damaging implications for Muslim women of the creeping acceptance of sharia marriage practices, including the proliferation of unregistered marriages. Forgetting the hard-learned lessons of the past, a misplaced multicultural benevolence has caused authorities to turn a blind eye to the dangers of illegal religious marriages.
An example of such blindness was reported in 2001, when the Australian radio and television host Geraldine Doogue interviewed Sheikh Fehmi, a leading Australian imam, the Grand Mufti of Australia from 2007 to 2011. Sheikh Fehmi claimed that the Australian government had accepted unregistered polygamous marriages when it granted the right to Muslims to conduct weddings in 1968: previously the Muslim practice of polygamy had made the government reluctant to grant Islamic clerics status as marriage celebrants. Sheikh Fehmi reported coming to an understanding with the then Attorney General, Bill Snedden, that a Muslim man's first marriage would be registered, but the authorities would turn a blind eye to further marriages as long as they were unregistered:
Narrator: Muslims rarely marry outside their religious group and while this couple probably take it for granted they can have a wedding according their custom, in Australia this is a relatively new occurrence. Islam recognises polygamy so prior to 1968 Imams like Sheikh Fehmi were not permitted to celebrate marriages.
Sheikh Fehmi: It used to be at the time the late Mr Snedden he was the Attorney General. So I had a good meeting with him one day and tried to convince him that it is important for the Muslim to marry their own people. But he used to say to me, Well you know Sheikh Fehmi that you Muslims may marry more than one and when we are not allowed to let anybody here for have only one wife. I said to him, Listen to me please you may register the first one and don't worry about the second one. He laughed and said, All right we won't have anything to do with the second one. I stopped at the idea and at the time we had gained recognition from the Attorney General for all our Imams around Australia from that year onward.
Western jurisdictions originally legislated for public registration of marriages in order to prevent the very practice which Bill Snedden allegedly agreed to condone. This indifferent attitude to marriage is one reason why forced marriages are running out of control in the West, to the detriment of thousands of young Muslim women.
The reasons for preventing the practice of unregistered Islamic marriages are as valid today as they were in thirteenth-, sixteenth- and eighteenth-century Europe: to ensure that vulnerable women and girls are not coerced into marriages against their will, and to reduce the vulnerability of women to sexual exploitation and abandonment.
Many feminist scholars have criticised the institution of marriage and called for its abolition altogether. There is a decline in confidence in the institution of marriage across the West, and perhaps this is one reason why Western jurisdictions have become lackadaisical about policing illegal religious marriages. However, the fact remains that some forms of marriage are worse for women than others: these include concubinage, polygamy, and forced marriages in which girls are compelled to marry older men against their will. Such "marriages" stand worlds apart from the long-established ideal in Western jurisdictions of two adults entering into a publicly registered lifelong exclusive marriage covenant of their own free will. The reasons for the state to regulate marriages apply equally well to unregistered unions contracted by minority religious groups today as they did for Church of England marriages in the mid-eighteenth century.
Western nations need to take firmer measures to deter a variety of marriage-related practices condoned by specific interpretations of Islamic law, including polygamy and the trafficking of under-age girls into forced marriages. Such measures must not only target the "grooms" and the walis; they also need to target marriage celebrants, as in the Marriage Act of 1753. It should be illegal—with criminal penalties—for a registered marriage celebrant to conduct unregistered religious marriage ceremonies.
Governments should also make it illegal for marriages—even unregistered ones—to be conducted by anyone except in conformity to the marriage laws. Celebrants who conduct extra-judicial marriages should be stripped of their licence to conduct marriages and they should be denied tax-deductible charitable status as ministers of religion. Those who conduct unregistered forced religious marriages should feel the full force of the law by being charged with criminal offences under anti-trafficking and anti-paedophilia legislation. Male relatives who act as walis for forced marriages should likewise be prosecuted for sex trafficking. Furthermore, religious organisations who employ someone found guilty of conducting an illegal religious marriage should be made criminally culpable and stripped of their charitable status if they cannot show due diligence in preventing their staff from conducting illegal marriages. The witnesses of illegal marriages should also be made culpable for their actions: if witnesses are aware that the bride is under-age, or being married against her will, they should be prosecuted for aiding and abetting sex trafficking or paedophilia.
Modern states once again need to find the will to protect women from abusive "marriages" solemnised under the guise of religion by targeting those who conduct illegal Islamic marriages. There can be no place for complacency driven by multicultural political correctness. The Australian feminist academic Sheila Jeffries has rightly called the privileging of Islamic religious perspectives on women's rights "reverse racism". It is an unacceptable and dangerous fallacy that second-class human rights for Muslim women are good enough for them, simply because they happen to be Muslim. It would be grotesque if those who choose to speak up about the plight of Muslim women are accused of "Islamophobia". The true bigots are those who find the sexual abuse of Muslim women to be multiculturally acceptable.
Governments cannot afford to be negligent where Islamic marriages are concerned. The first victims of such negligence will be Muslim women. They are already being victimised in their thousands. Those who conduct or collaborate in conducting unlicensed religious marriages—whether they be the "husband", the woman's male guardian, the witnesses, or a cleric—must be made to suffer the full force of the law.
Mark Durie is an Anglican Vicar in Melbourne and a Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum, Philadelphia.
Related Topics: Muslims in the West, Sex and gender relations | Mark Durie
Ukraine calls up reserves against Russia. Putin spurns Obama’s call to de-escalate with fallout on Mid East
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis March 2, 2014/ It took US President Barack Obama 90 minutes of intense dialogue with the Russian president to grasp that Vladimir Putin is unshakably fixed on the course he has set for Ukraine and has no intention of withdrawing the Russian troops he has positioned in the Crimean peninsula. In fact, behind the diplomatic verbiage, Putin was clearly on the offensive. He let it be understood that unless the US and Europe rid Kiev of the “fascist gangs,” which had taken over, Moscow would move forces into additional parts of Ukraine to uphold its interests and “protect the Russian citizens and compatriots living there” for as long as the interim regime remained in Kiev. Not a shot has so far been fired in the Russian military takeover of Crimea. This could change very rapidly and deteriorate into a head-on clash between Russian and anti-Russian elements on Ukraine soil. Putin was not impressed by Obama’s accusation of being in ”clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity." Neither was he deterred by the US president’s threat of “international political and diplomatic isolation” - or even a Western boycott of the G8 summer summit in Sochi. After all, he stood alone at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Winter Games - unattended by a single Western leader. After that experience, he is not afraid to stand alone on Ukraine as well, regardless of US and EU efforts to force him to abandon what he views as an imminent strategic threat on Russia’s doorstep.
So the West would be more productively served by leaning hard on the group of assorted protesters who seized power in Kiev and get them to step aside, or else seek an understanding with Moscow. Military brinkmanship will get them nowhere. The basis of an understanding already exists. It was signed and sealed on Feb. 21, the day before the pro-Western coup in Kiev, in a deal with Viktor Yanukovich, brokered by the German, French and Polish foreign ministers, for a unity government, an early election and a new constitution curbing the president’s authority.
That deal was endorsed by Moscow as well as Washington. However, as time goes and the escalation continues, that deal will fade, along with the chances of a non-violent resolution of the Ukraine conflict.
Therefore, the US-EU tactic of turning the heat on Moscow is not just an exercise in futility; it is proving to be a major strategic blunder stemming from weakness, which now threatens to promote real violence and bloodshed.
The Interim government’s security council chief Sunday, March 2 announced a general mobilization of Ukraine’s 1 million reservists after placing the army on a combat footing. This step was virtually useless in practical terms while providing Putin with further impetus to continue his military expansion. He knows that the Kiev administration is broke, so how can it feed, equip, arm and provide transport for hundreds of thousands of troops? And does anyone know how many are loyal to the new regime? Belatedly, the interim government appealed to the West for help This grossly uneven confrontation takes place under the critical gaze 2,000 km away in the eastern Mediterranean and 3,500 km away in the Persian Gulf of the leaders of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Syria, and Hizballah in Lebanon.
They may be said to share four significant conclusions:
1. President Obama was seen backing off a commitment to US allies for the second time in eight months. They remember his U-turn last August on US military intervention for the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons. They also see Washington shying off from Russia’s use of military force and therefore not a reliable partner for safeguarding their national security.
2. The Middle East governments which opted to range with Vladimir Putin - Damascus, Tehran, Hizballah and, up to an initial point, Egypt, are ending up on the strong side of the regional equation.
The pro-American camp keeps falling back.
3. American weakness on the global front has strengthened the Iranian-Syrian bloc and its ties with Hizballah.
4. Putin standing foursquare behind Iran is an insurmountable obstacle to a negotiated and acceptable comprehensive agreement with Iran - just as the international bid for a political resolution of the Syrian conflict foundered last month.
With the Ukraine crisis looming ever larger, Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s scheduled meeting Monday with President Obama at the White House is unlikely to be more than an exchange of polite platitudes.