Wednesday, November 21, 2001
T h u r s d a y ,  N o v e m b e r  2 2,  2 0 0 1
Friday, November 23, 2001

Kunduz Conundrum, Fears of High Death Toll

Excerpts describing the state of flux between desertions, attacks, resistance, and reactions to the situation in Kunduz, Afghanistan:

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Fears of a massacre of thousands of foreign fighters trapped in Kunduz, the last northern stronghold of the Taliban, were raised last night as the Northern Alliance launched an all-out attack to capture the besieged town.

The 10-day siege of the Kunduz pocket appeared to be moving towards a violent and chaotic end after alliance leaders first announced that a surrender deal had been reached and then said talks had failed and an assault was underway.

But amid reports that hundreds of Afghan Taliban fighters were surrendering, leaving only hardline Arab and other foreign fighters, Downing Street and Washington faced contradictory worries over the fate of the enclave.


(click for large size image)

Officials feared the international repercussions of a massacre by their unofficial allies, and yet also expressed concern that a large part of the Taliban force could escape unscathed if unreliable Northern Alliance leaders made a deal with them. ...

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What's Up With Islam?

Excerpts from an interview with an individual who is critical of the religion of Islam, originally broadcast in October:

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Lyn Gallacher: This week on The Religion Report, we’re devoting the entire program to an exclusive interview with the secularist Muslim intellectual Ibn Warraq.

Ibn Warraq is the pseudonym used by this author of two controversial books, Why I Am not a Muslim and The Quest for the Historical Muhammad. The name, Ibn Warraq, is one that’s traditionally been adopted by dissident authors throughout the history of Islam.

And in this case, Ibn Warraq uses it because he fears for his safety. He believes that there are moderate Muslims, but that Islam itself is not moderate. And, he says it’s time for Western Muslims and Western politicians like George Bush and Tony Blair to stop denying Islam’s role in the violence of September 11th.

... Stephen Crittenden: What do you think has happened? What do you think happened to Islam on September 11th?

Ibn Warraq: I of course didn’t think it happened to Islam on September 11th, I always knew that it was like that in any case. It just simply underlines what I’ve been trying to say for the last six years, and other people, more courageous and more informed than I, have been saying it for even longer. That is to say that what happened on the 11th is somehow within Islam, it’s essential to Islam in some sense.

... I mean it’s quite ironical, both Bush and Tony Blair are the two leaders who have introduced religion into political life, and now they’re the ones to refuse to use the word ‘Islam’ when talking about terrorism.

They just won’t understand what is happening; they will repeat the same old mistakes. If they cannot analyse the situation and see that Islam is the motivating factor behind all this, then how on earth are they going to tackle the problem? It seems completely incomprehensible to me.

... Every ill in the world, including the Third World of course, has been attributed to the wicked West, and there’s been incredible nonsense written about colonialism and racism and so on, as though only the West was guilty of this. Of course slavery and the Muslims were deeply implicated in the slave trade, Islam was an Imperialist religion which destroyed Christianity in the Near East, yet nobody mentions those facts.

... Stephen Crittenden: Is one of the key problems that Islam faces, its Arabic tribal origins? Christianity was a cosmopolitan religion from the word go, Judaism was forced to become one. Is Islam a kind of attempt though at one level, to sort of transform the whole world into an Arabic tribe?

Ibn Warraq: Oh yes, that is the agenda of political Islam, if you like, if you can call it that. But within Islam generally, there has been this current that says that Islam is the perfect religion, the prophet was the last of the prophets, and it is the duty of every Muslim to bring this religion to the whole of humanity. There is a certain logic in that, it’s not my logic because I don’t accept their premise.

... Stephen Crittenden: ... we’ve done interviews on this program in recent days with Islamic scholars from America and elsewhere, who are very keen to support Islam and very keen, as I am, not to offend Muslims ... you are very critical of the kind of political correctness of those people. You call them ‘Western apologists’.

Ibn Warraq: Yes, I find it quite distressing that it’s implicit in such an attitude by the way is the kind of racism they think they’re getting away from, there’s a kind of condescension which says you mustn’t hurt the sensibilities of these poor Muslims, as though they are children who must be shielded from the adult world of criticism, which I find extraordinary.

... Muslims have not ever been told to examine their faith in a critical way, so the shock is going to be even greater for them, as it is for any child who lives in an over-protected environment, who suddenly has to go out and earn a living and has to stand up on his own feet.

This exactly the kind of shock that they will have. But what does a child do? He has to look reality in the face, and this is what Muslims have to do. They have to examine their sacred text and see what is wrong with it, what is in it that drives people to murder 5,000 people in one go, the suicide attack, and it’s no good pretending it’s got nothing to do with Islam, they’ve to examine it and look at reality in the face.

And I can’t see there’s going to be any soft way out of this. They’ve just got to wake up, they’ve got to grow up. And so instead of shouting ‘Oh, you’re insulting our prophet, you’re insulting our religion’, they’ve got to take their place along with other people who’ve had to take knocks....

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Skyscrapers - Sturdier, Safer, Smarter?

Excerpts from article describing ideas being considered to deal with the consequences to building design and security concerns due to the Twin Towers in the September 11th attack:

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... In the aftermath of the recent tragedy, the brightest minds in architecture and structural engineering are pooling their expertise to figure out how a building can survive the newest forms of terrorism.

... Skyscraper Self-Defense - Builders are exploring new ways to make office workers feel safe.

Options include protective steel plating on the building's facade, blastproof escape routes, safety floors where people can wait out a fire, and laser-based devices that can identify dangerous chemicals.

... The Right Stuff - Though the World Trade Center towers ultimately fell, they each withstood a massive impact and remained standing for an hour or more -- time that enabled thousands of people to flee to safety.

... But despite the World Trade Center's solidity under attack, many engineers believe there's room for improvement.

... Getting People Out - ... In the event that people are unable to get out, other measures are being explored.

In China, "areas of refuge" are popular with many builders. Every 15 floors or so, a floor or portion thereof is constructed of concrete slabs and designated as a place where occupants can go to wait out a fire.

These areas are equipped with mechanized ventilation systems that clear the air of smoke. They are also connected to pressurized stairwells, should people need to escape a potential collapse. ...

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Pope's Latest in a Series of Apologies for Church Sins

Excerpt from article describing the pope's apology to impacted groups and individuals in the Pacific region, for supporting the forcible separation of 30,000 Aboriginal children from their parents and for the sexual abuse by some clergy:

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Pope John Paul II has sent an apology by e-mail for a string of injustices, including sexual abuse, committed by Roman Catholic clergy in the Pacific nations.

The 81-year-old pontiff transmitted the message, his first virtual apology, in a recent string of statements of contrition, from a laptop in the Vatican's frescoed Clementine Hall on Wednesday.

... This is just the latest in a series of papal apologies for the sins of the Roman Catholic church.

  • Last month, Pope John Paul II apologised to China for the errors of missionaries in colonial times

  • On controversial visits to both the Ukraine and Greece earlier this year, he asked Orthodox Christians' forgiveness for wrongs committed against them by Roman Catholics.

  • And in a trip to Israel last year, he publicly asked God's forgiveness for the sins of Roman Catholics through the ages, including wrongs inflicted on Jews, women and minorities.

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