Important but overlooked news from around the world.
“Although this certainly is a case of domestic violence, some are referring to this as an example of an ‘honor’ killing.”
— The Muslim American Society on the killing of an immigrant teen in Canada, allegedly by her father (see “Fundamentalism,” below).
Iraqi officers AWOL in the U.S.
Protestors say Israel will exclude Ethiopian Jews
Afghan reconstruction faces U.S. budget cuts
Muslim teen’s slaying sparks Canada debate
Fur flies in tiger photo fight
* Iraqi Officers AWOL in U.S.
At least five and as many as a dozen Iraqi officials have deserted U.S.-based military training, and are at large and unaccounted for, the Washington Times reports.
Now, a pair of Texas Republicans are demanding answers from White House officials — more than a year after first inquiring about the disappearances.
The desertions occurred between 2005 and 2007, and were reported to the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Neither agency would provide details on any investigations on the disappearances, and ICE said asylum requests were confidential.
Meanwhile, Reps. Lamar Smith and John Cuthberson of Texas both raised concerns about any terrorist and national security threats the missing officers might represent.
According to the Times, an anonymous intelligence official said as many as a dozen Iraqis have deserted military training facilities in the United States.
“Lawmakers seek whereabouts of Iraqi deserters”
Washington Times, December 18, 2007
* Protestors say Israel will Exclude Ethiopian Jews
Hundreds of Ethiopian Jews demonstrated in Jerusalem on Monday, alleging that as many as 8,500 of their family and community members have been cut from Israel’s immigration program.
The Jerusalem Post reports that demonstrators displayed photos of loved ones still in Ethiopia, while Avraham Neguise, a leader of the protests, accused the Israeli Interior Ministry of reneging on its promise.
Another protestor told the newspaper that the decision to end Jewish immigration from Ethiopia is “definitely rooted in racism.”
An Interior Ministry spokeswoman confirmed that the immigration program would be terminated in January, and also said that Neguise’s claims were false.
“Ethiopians protests plan to cut Aliyah”
Jerusalem Post, December 18, 2007
* Afghan Reconstruction Faces U.S. Budget Cuts
An innovative reconstruction program in Afghanistan has been praised for giving decision-making power to small villages and communities, but may be shuttered due to funding shortfalls.
Washington Monthly reports that Afghanistan’s National Solidarity Program is a success across the country, even in unstable areas where the Taliban still holds sway.
Originally developed by a “maverick” World Bank officer in Indonesia, advocates say the NSP ensures a sense of ownership by involving all community members in public meetings to determine what local needs are.
It also enforces local accountability by requiring full, public disclosure of fund uses and project timelines by village leaders to their constituents.
The magazine reports that small public works projects in, such as hydropower and irrigation development, tend to stay intact in “low-security environments.”
Activists even noted that schools built under the program are less likely to be burned by the Taliban, and that NSP projects in general are less vulnerable to corrupt management, because individual community members are so intimately involved.
Although the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany have all pledged to boost their contributions to the program, the United States has cut back, from $74 million last year to $50 million in 2007.
The combined cash crunch has left the NSP unable to pay some bills, and is dousing hopes for bringing the program to 7,000 additional Afghan communities.
“The Schools the Taliban Won’t Torch”
Washington Monthly, December 2007
* Muslim Teen’s Slaying Sparks Canada Debate
The slaying of a 16-year-old Muslim girl, allegedly by her father, has sparked a furor in the Canadian press and beyond.
Aqsa Parvez died in a hospital last week, hours after a man called 911, saying he had killed his daughter.
Parvez’s father was arrested and charged in her death.
One of her brothers was charged with obstructing the investigation.
Parvez and her Mississauga, Ontario, family were immigrants from Pakistan, and early reports said that she had fought with her father over her refusal to wear the traditional Muslim head scarf.
Friends later discounted these reports.
The slaying has spurred sharp debates among Canadian and international commentators over the roles of Islam and immigration in the West, but Canadian imams have denounced the slaying.
Many have said it was not a matter of religion, but of domestic violence.
In an op-ed in the National Post, one writer called Parvez’s death “Canada’s first honor killing,” while the Muslim American Society denounced the slaying and declared “‘honor’ killings are not only a Muslim problem, and there is no ‘honor’ involved.”
“The double life of Aqsa Parvez”
National Post, December 12, 2007
“Was the killing of Aqsa a Muslim act?”
Edmonton Journal, December 16, 2007
“The Death of Aqsa Parvez Should Be an Interfaith Call to Action”
Muslim American Society, December 15, 2007
“Aqsa slaying and the clash between religion and culture”
Globe and Mail, December 13, 2007
“Aqsa’s last days”
National Post, December 15, 2007
“How Canada let Aqsa down”
National Post, December 12, 2007
* Fur Flies in Tiger Photo Fight
When Chinese officials declared this fall that a rare South China tiger had been photographed in the wild, it appeared at first to be a story of nature’s powers of survival.
But now the officials are defending the photos against claims that they are obvious fakes.
The controversy began in October, when China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that a farmer had handed in photos he took of a tiger in a forest near his house in Shaanxi province.
The South China tiger is critically endangered, and one has not been spotted in the wild since 1964.
Experts believe that if there are any of the animals left in the wild, they number fewer than 30.
But the photo released by Xinhua — reportedly one of more than 70 the farmer took — was quickly derided by scientists and laypeople from around the world who said the image appeared to be digitally altered.
On an Internet site, one critic posted photos showing similarities between the farmer’s image and one from a previously published calendar.
Even the China Photographers Society deemed the farmer’s photo a hoax.
While clearly embarrassed by the attention, Chinese officials have stuck by their story.
Early this month, they announced that they had organized a group of experts to search for tigers in Shaanxi.
“Whether the tiger on the photo is real or not, it’s still difficult to evaluate the situation of the tigers at large in the area,” a forestry official told Xinhua, China’s state-sponsored news outlet.
Meanwhile, a group in South Africa is attempting to breed captive South China tigers with the hope of reintroducing them to their native habitat.
Last month, Save China’s Tiger claimed the first birth of a South China tiger cub ever achieved in captivity outside China.
“The goal is not just to save a few endangered tigers but to save a Chinese culture symbol,” said Li Quan, the group’s director.
Only about 60 of the tigers survive in captivity.
“Row over China tiger photo ‘fakes'”
BBC News, December 5, 2007
“Rare Chinese tiger fights for survival … in South Africa”
Agence France-Presse, December 6, 2007
“Government officials refuse to accept South China tiger photos are fake”
Xinhua (People’s Republic of China), December 4, 2007
Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain
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Aqsa’s death is being called an “honor” killing because that’s what it is.
Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
“Reclaiming Honor in Jordan”