Tuesday, November 30, 2010

After Wikileaks: Iran agrees to talks on nuclear plans: EU

Iran agreed Today to a new round of talks in Geneva on December 6 and 7 with world powers on its controversial nuclear programme, an EU foreign affairs spokesman said.
Iran chief negotiator Said Jalili will meet for talks with EU chief diplomat Catherine Ashton, who will lead the international delegation, the spokesman said. "We've now received a response from the Iranian authorities in which they have said that Dr. Jalili has accepted Catherine Ashton's proposal to meet in Geneva," the spokesman said. "Talks between Catherine Ashton and Dr. Jalili will now take place on Monday and Tuesday next week in Geneva."
Ashton would lead the so-called "3+3" or "5+1" group of nations negotiating with Iran made up of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain) and Germany.
The talks will be the first between Iran and six world powers since October 2009.
Disagreement over the agenda has held up the talks. The world powers want the talks to focus on Iran's uranium enrichment programme but Tehran wants a wider discussion that includes regional security issues.
The United States, Europe and Israel fear that Iran wants to use nuclear technology to build a bomb, but Tehran insists that its programme is a peaceful drive to produce civilian energy.
And Turkey is out of the picture.

Arash's World: The Important but Difficult Task of Letting Go and Buddhist Non-Attachment

Arash's World: The Important but Difficult Task of Letting Go and Buddhist Non-Attachment

Day Opening - November 30

Escape of an turtle

Monday, November 29, 2010

Is Switzerland the Black sheep of Europe?

Switzerland was slammed as the "black sheep" of Europe today after voters endorsed a far-right push to automatically expel foreign residents convicted of certain crimes. Austrian website news.at headlined an article saying: "Switzerland is now the black sheep -- majority for tougher rules against foreigers." The headline was a reference to the signature poster campaign mounted by the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP) in its push for the expulsion, depicting white sheep kicking a black sheep out of the Swiss flag. On Sunday, 52.9 percent voted in favour of automatic expulsions and 47.1 percent were against, with the country's German-speaking majority largely backing the proposal. Only six of the 26 cantons rejected the initiative.
The vote came exactly a year after Switzerland shocked the world by agreeing to ban the construction of new minarets, which was another proposal backed by the SVP.
Switzerland's biggest circulating tabloid Blick headlined the news "Get out" (Raus in German).
Newspapers across Europe criticised the Swiss decision, with Belgian newspaper Le Soir saying that "Switzerland has once against chosen the radical road."
With the vote, "the Swiss have once again slapped the EU in the face," as the expulsion is "absolutely incompatible with the bilateral accord of free movement of people which links Switzerland to EU," said the newspaper.
The vote could "put all bilateral accords in question," it added.
Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung headlined their article "Switzerland violates international law."
"Switzerland sends -- like a year ago with the ban on minarets -- a signal to the world that it doesn't care what others think of it," said the newspaper. "The signal from the Swiss calls for a response... The European Union should not tolerate a country, with which it is tightly linked, to position itself so wantonly apart from this community. "Switzerland has violated one of the seven bilateral accords with the EU. And theoretically, it is also bringing six others into question," added the journal.
"Austria's Die Presse said Switzerland demonstrated a sort of "schizophrenia."" On the one hand, murderers, rapists and foreign drug dealers must be expelled. On the other hand, despots, dictators, mafia or businessmen crooks, whose money have often dodgy origins, are always welcomed with a 'Gruezi.'," it noted, referring to the Swiss German greeting.
Even much of the mainstream broadsheets within Switzerland deplored their compatriots' decision.
Le Temps headlined their editorial "Anguish," criticising the SVP for imposing their agenda "with disregard for universal rights."
Le Matin said the far-right campaign was successful as the party had become a "real war machine, with a perfect propaganda service, incomparable financial means, dedicated politicians and simplistic but terribly efficient messages."
The TagesAnzeiger noted "Switzerland will not make new friends with this 'yes' -- other than with the populist right circles of Europe.
"Up to now that included the Italian Northern League, and Holland's Geert Wilders as examples. Yesterday's decision reminds us that even in the Swiss idyllic utopia, we can find their supporters," it noted.
Italy's main broadsheet Corriere della Sera quoted a Northern League politician Mario Borghesio praising the Swiss decision as "an example of judicial civility."
The question remains: 'how many countries expel foreign criminals from their soil? Fort example thhe USA have a 3-strike-out law! İs that against universal rights?

John Halal

Day Opening - November 29

Happy Dolphins by Elena Shevkoplyas

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Statement #48

"Only if outward and inner freedom are constantly and consciously pursued is there a possibility of spiritual development and perfection and thus of improving man's outward and inner life."

--Albert Einstein

Ten years of legalised Euthanisia in the Netherlands

Today it is ten years since the Netherlands passed a law legalising euthanasia. This made the Netherlands the first country in the world to establish legal guidelines for ending a human life. But why has almost no other country followed the Dutch example?
The Netherlands likes to see itself as an ethical guide that other countries should follow. In 2001, the Mayor of Amsterdam presided over the first same-sex marriage while the world looked on. Since then, over ten countries have legalised same-sex unions.
One year earlier, the Netherlands became the first country to adopt a law on euthanasia. This was another Dutch breakthrough that attracted the attention of the world, but it did not inspire widespread admiration. Only two other countries have ventured to follow in the Netherlands’ footsteps: Belgium in 2002 and Luxembourg in 2009.

“Euthanasia centres on fundamental medical-ethical issues, so other countries cannot simply transplant the Dutch legislation to their own context,” explains Walburg de Jong of the Voluntary Euthanasia Association.
“The Dutch Euthanasia Act was preceded by 30 years of debate in the Netherlands. That discussion was initiated by the general public and filtered through to the world of politics. Interestingly, the process in Belgium two years later was the other way around. There it was the government that wanted to regulate the issue and so the euthanasia law was imposed from the top down.”

Beyond the Benelux countries, legal arrangements for euthanasia exist in Switzerland and in the US states of Oregon, Washington and Montana. There is a difference, however: in those places a doctor is only allowed to provide the medicines that enable someone to end their life. But taking action to end someone’s life, for example by administering and excessive dose of morphine, is still very much illegal.

Cultural shift

Regulating euthanasia by law requires a huge cultural shift. After all, it is the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens, a role that appears to be at odds with helping them end their own life.
From an international perspective, there are only two situations imaginable in which the state gives its assent for the taking of a human life on professional grounds, says Evert van Leeuwen, Professor of Medical Ethics in Nijmegen. “An executioner is allowed to do so when implementing a death sentence and it is permitted during wartime.” This is why doctors in other countries are not permitted to take a life.
“Here in the Netherlands, we tend to take a different view,” Prof Van Leeuwen says. “Here, a doctor gets to choose between his oath and his patient’s wishes. If his patient wants to die, he is allowed to assist them”. Many countries do allow palliative sedation, in which a doctor administers heavy sedatives and stops treatment.

The easygoing Dutch attitude toward a doctor playing an active role in ending a patient’s life appears to be mainly due to well-known Dutch values such as tolerance, transparency and an almost compulsory urge to regulate. Ethicist Van Leeuwen:
''Deeply engrained tolerance means that the wishes of others are taken seriously. Our openness makes it much easier to talk about someone’s wish to die”.
And the Dutch are also pragmatic; they want to structure and regulate anything they can. On top of which, the church - a fierce opponent of euthanasia - in the Netherlands has little say in people’s private lives.

Instead of emulation, Dutch euthanasia policies have over the past ten years mainly met with criticism:
“After euthanasia and infanticide, the next step in the Netherlands will most likely be a suicide pill for people who are tired of life, even though it will probably take a few years before it’s legal.” (Correspondent Greg Burke, Fox News)
“The Nazi laws and Hitler’s ideas have made a comeback in Dutch euthanasia laws and the debate about how sick children are killed.” (Italian minister Carlo Giovanardi)

These spectres are not borne out by the facts: the number of cases of active euthanasia has been steady at 2,500 for years, slightly lower than before the introduction of current euthanasia laws. The criticisms regarding the killing of children refer to a medical protocol drawn up by neonatologists for the termination of life for newborn babies who are suffering unbearable pain without a prospect of improvement. Professor Van Leeuwen says: “You could ask yourself if it was even necessary”.
The topic continues to being hot and controversial.

Day Opening - November 28

A happy baby.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Let's sing a new song

To read the poem, hop on to Life Rules

And...Mohammed existed

Some sceptical scholars claim that Muhammad did not exist and that Islam is a fabrication made up in later centuries. But Leiden University’s Petra Sijpesteijn has demonstrated from her work on Arabic papyrus manuscripts that their claim is not true.

What was the origin of Islam and what went on at the dawn of Islamic history? In the past, scholars who wanted to research the subject had to rely on the official Islamic version of events which was only written down about 200 years after Muhammad’s death. Only relatively recently has interest grown in more objective but less accessible sources such as coins, inscriptions and texts written on papyrus.
Petra Sijpesteijn, professor of Arabic language and culture at Leiden University, says that this last source is especially important. “The papyri are in fact the only contemporary source for the first 200 years of Islamic history.”

Papyrus manuscripts have been found in their thousands in the sand and at ancient rubbish tips all over the Middle East but especially in Egypt. Dr Sijpesteijn explains that they are often difficult to read because they are partially destroyed, badly written out or in dialect. “But if you can read them, they offer a unique glimpse of ordinary life at the dawn of Islam.”
The study of Arabic papyri is in its infancy. Only a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of available manuscripts have been studied. As far as the work done so far is concerned, the Muslim faithful can set their minds at ease: Dr Sijpesteijn says the texts largely confirm the official Islamic version of events.

Dr Sijpesteijn distances herself from the small group of polemical colleagues, known as the ‘revisionists’, who assert that the Prophet Muhammad probably did not exist. They say the Arabic conquerors were actually a disorganised horde of Bedouins who gained control of half the known world more or less by chance. Islam is said to have been dreamt up 200 years later in Iraq.
“From the papyri, it appears that the Arab conquests were indeed carefully planned and organised and that the Arabs saw themselves as conquerors with a religious mission. They also appear to have held religious views and followed customs which contain important elements of the behaviour and beliefs of later Muslims.

Dr Sijpesteijn says for example that, shortly after Muhammad’s death, there is already mention of a pilgrimage (hajj) and a tax to collect money for the poor (zakat). She has also come across a papyrus text written around 725 which names both the prophet and Islam.
Even so, her discoveries form a potential threat to the image some modern Muslims have of their history. The papyri contradict the belief held by many of today’s Muslims that Muhammad delivered Islam as a sort of ready-made package. “It looks as though Islam in its first centuries developed a form gradually. There was an awful lot of discussion about precisely what it meant to be a Muslim.” And thats still continues!

Day Opening - November 27

Tomorrow can be

Friday, November 26, 2010

Turkish-Dutch woman Semra Çelebi: I stopped wearing my headscarf

Turkish woman Semra Çelebi no longer wears her headscarf. She says she doesn't need to in order to be a good Muslim. The decision was not an easy one. Semra recently started a Facebook page called I took off my hijab. (interesting is that women and girls support her but men and boys not, calling her a sinner)
The scarf is still folded up neatly in a cupboard at her parents' house. Semra Çelebi has saved all her old headscarves. They are part of her past but they are not part of her current identity. Semra now lives in Amsterdam, where she feels anonymous and free.

Semra was ten years old when she first started wearing a headscarf. She was following the example of her younger sister, who attended an Islamic primary school. Semra herself went to a Christian school in the Dutch town of Barneveld. Her father, who is from a traditional Turkish family, believes women should wear headscarves. It took a little getting used to for Semra. "I felt ill at ease, because I wasn't sure how my friends would react. I remember them dragging me into the classroom because I wouldn't go in. They just accepted me."


Sometimes she gets negative reactions. One person called her "teatowel". Usually she ignores any comments. Once she was refused a job at a toy company because of the headscarf. They told her "we can't do that to our customers".
Wearing a hijab became more and more a part of her religious identity. After all, God wants women to dress modestly. She defended her decision to wear the headscarf in debates and her quick tongue started to get her noticed.


However, when Semra started studying law at Utrecht University she started to change her mind. She did internships in Sheffield, New York and Brussels, far away from her home town with its strict rules. After reading a number of books on the subject, Semra decided to stop wearing her headscarf.
"It no longer suited the way I saw my religion. I don't need it to be a good Muslim. It was six months before I actually stopped wearing it. It was very difficult. It is not just a piece of cloth. It is part of my identity and I wore it for 16 years. I was afraid of how people would react."


That was three years ago. And Semra still has to defend her identity, but this time as a Muslim woman without a headscarf. Her father does not approve and she gets negative reactions. But she refuses to give in. Recently she started a Facebook page to support women who decide to stop wearing headscarves.
Within three weeks around 100 people had joined the page. Some girls write that they are afraid to stop wearing their headscarves because of the reactions they will get. One father stopped talking to his daughter for months. Semra says her Facebook page is not intended to encourage Muslims to stop wearing their headscarves.
"The important thing is that you make your own choices. That is not always easy. My choice was about wearing a headscarf, but it could about something else. A colleague told me his girlfriend's father ignored him for five years because he and his girlfriend lived together. That was his decision."

source: rwd.nl

Day Opening - November 25

Sleeping beauty - Kangaroo

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Arabic Nazism & Anti-semitism

New Trends in Arabic Anti-semitism from Henrik Clausen on Vimeo.


More sites are added to the blog roll of Internations including The Last Bear and Francis Hunt’s Attempted Essays. Gauri’s ‘Life Rules’, which is linked to this blog for almost 4 years, became a welcome active contributor of this blog. She already posted several post entries, but was never proper introduced. Gauri is from India and writes part-time for her profession. Again: welcome!

Next post is a video of a presentation the State of Israel give for the UN Human Right Council in Geneva on the 28th of September 2010. The video shows that Nazism is well alive in parts of the Middle East. I warn you for the last 4 minutes of the video: these are so pervert (especially with the Arab commentator) that I thought: ‘how de-human humanity’ can be.

Essays on the Arab Israeli Conflict: When President Obama Uses Israel's Legitimacy as a Bargaining Chip

Essays on the Arab Israeli Conflict: When President Obama Uses Israel's Legitimacy as a Bargaining Chip

Day Opening - November 25

A helping Hand. Who immitates who? Humans or animals?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Homosexuals no longer protected by UN charter

Statement #47

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

Day Opening - November 24

Istanbul by Istanbulblogger (Brian Underdown)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Back to the Wilderness

Excitement in The Hague today! The Dutch Freedom Party, led by the democratically elected Geert Wilders, had an internal discussion with his colleague MPs about more democratic fundaments of its movement, initiated by one of the enfants terrible Hero (nomen est omen?) Brinkman.

The excitement lasted only a few hours, by the end of the day the stakeholders announced that the members of the fraction decided not to proceed with the democratic initiative. So it's not possible to become (active) member of the party and have influence on decisions and the party policy, it's not possible to attend party congresses (simply because they won't exist) and it's not possible to change the course of the party's objective of being an anti-islam party...

Within the political environment of democracy the piece of Wilderness remains, similar to the dark Middle Ages, where the tirannic king rules, led by devine intervention (i.e. as long as the fear of Muslims remains, Geert has a legitimate basis to rule his private political kingdom).

And how about our democratic Hero? He just smiles and tells the press that he never had the intention to stand down when his plan would be shot off...

Women are doing better than Men

The answer why females are doing better; women talk more clearly than men. Their plain speaking is due to the higher position of the voice box, making it easier for them to articulate. Bart de Boer of Amsterdam University researched the position of the larynx; his findings were published in the Journal of Phonetics last week.

Up until now, it was thought that the low position of voice boxes in men meant they articulated their words better. However, in men the larynx is longer making it more difficult for them to pronounce words. “They have to put more effort into speaking clearly,” says the researcher. Fortunately for them, the position of the voice box makes them sound more impressive. So it doesn’t really matter what they say....

The Nuremberg trials as precessor of the ICC

The International Criminal Court in The Hague would never have been set up if it weren't for the Nuremberg Trials. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief prosecutor at the ICC, feels personally indebted to the tribunal established exactly 65 years ago to try senior Nazi figures. It was the birth of modern international law.

“What makes Nuremberg so important is the idea that the whole world is one society. That international law can enable us to defend human rights. This is the way we combat those responsible for the greatest possible crimes. That new idea guarantees society will continue to exist,” explains Professor Moreno-Ocampo in his office in The Hague.

Since Nuremberg, increasing numbers of people have dedicated their lives to the protection of victims. Putting international rules in place is also very important for the future. “No more indemnity from punishment,” he says.


On 20 November 1945, at the start of the Nuremberg Trials, the chief prosecutor for the United States, Robert H. Jackson, stated: “What makes this inquest significant is that those prisoners represent sinister influence that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust.”
Mr Jackson described it as an honour to open for the prosecution in the first trial concerning crimes against world peace. However, he also said he was conscious of the great responsibility which came with that honour
It was the first time ever that an international military tribunal had been set up to try people accused of war crimes. Initially, allied leaders, including Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, were decidedly not in favour of an international trial. They were more inclined to sanction the execution without trial of between 50,000 and 100,000 German officers.

Birthplace of Nazism

The plan for an international trial was put forward by US war secretary Henry Stimson. President Roosevelt's successor Harry Truman welcomed the idea. The tribunal only got started after intensive negotiations with the British, Russians and French. Nuremberg was chosen because it was seen as the birthplace of Nazism. It was the scene of mass Nazi rallies and was where the Nazi regime proclaimed its racist laws which stripped, for example, Jewish people of their civil rights.
All the top Nazi figures were indicted, except for Hitler and Goebbels who had both committed suicide. A total of 177 Nazis were tried at Nuremberg: 12 were given the death sentence, 10 of these were hanged. The other defendants were given sentences ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. Three defendants were found not guilty.

Tomorrow: Arab NeoNazism and Antisemitisme in the 21th century

Day Opening - November 23

An interesting meeting

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Did you smell flowers today?
Or savoured your coffee?
Did you see the sky today?
Or dreamt an old dream?
Did you feel good to be alive today?

-Gauri Gharpure

Azerbaijanie bloggers freed!

Bloggers Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli have been freed by the authorities in Azerbaijan. They were imprisoned at the end of 2009. The two had criticised Azeri President Ilham Aliyev in a satirical film.

The bloggers, sporting donkey costumes, discussed the purchase of a donkey by the president. During an official visit to Germany in 2009, Mr Aliyev had bought a donkey for 40,000 euros.
Shortly after the film was broadcast, Mr Hajizade and Mr Milli were beaten up and eventually jailed. They were charged with ‘hooliganism’ and ‘inflicting bodily harm’. Mr Hajizade was given a two-and-a-half year prison sentence and Mr Milli, two years.
This week, an appeal court granted Mr Hajizade early release: he had served 16 months. On leaving the court, he told onlookers that he would remain in Azerbaijan and continue his blogging activities. “I was not guilty and demand a full pardon,” he said. “Freedom is my right.”
Emin Milli was yesterday today on appeal.

Day Opening - November 20

Bon appetit

Friday, November 19, 2010

UN General Assembly condemns human rights violations in Iran, North Korea and Myanmar

A UN General Assembly committee passed resolutions condemning human rights violations in Iran, North Korea and Myanmar, provoking a furious reaction from their delegations.
A top Iranian official lashed out at Britain as the "United Kingdom of devils," North Korea's representative said his country would not change its much-condemned actions, while Myanmar's ambassador called the vote "seriously flawed."

Opposition from China and other nations failed to stop the resolutions from passing with strong majorities.
"By condemning three of the world’s most egregious human rights abusers and shining a spotlight on deplorable human rights practices in these countries, member states have stayed true to the founding values of the UN," said the United States' UN ambassador Susan Rice.
Iran caused the most contested debate, with the Islamic Republic even trying to stop the vote going ahead.
"Violations continue and continue to worsen," said Canada's UN ambassador John McNee, whose country led the 42 nations that co-sponsored the resolution.
Iran has consistently rejected international appeals over the use of torture and increasing use of public executions, including by stoning and strangulation, McNee said.
"This persistent attitude over time demonstrates a fundamental lack of respect for the United Nations, its human rights treaties and practices," he said.
Mohammed Javed Larijani, head of Iran's High Human Rights Council, told the committee the resolution was "harmful for international peace and coexistence."
He accused accused the United States of being the "mastermind" of the now annual resolution.
"Our crime is that our democracy is not a replica, not an Xerox copy of western democracy. We do not want to be Western democracy," said Larijani.
Larijani highlighted deadly riots in Los Angeles, and protests in France that he said left "Paris was in flames like a war zone" to highlight what he called "misleading" accusations by the West about human rights.
Britain sent an intelligence agent to shoot an Iranian student killed during protests after Iran's disputed 2009 presidential election, he alleged.
The committee passed the resolution by 80 votes to 44, with 57 abstentions.
"Iran’s lobbying against the resolution has spectacularly failed," said Philippe Bolopion, UN specialist for Human Rights Watch.
"This should be a wake-up call to Iran’s government that the international community views it as a serial rights offender," he added
One hundred nations backed the resolution against North Korea, which condemned "torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including inhuman conditions of detention, public executions, extrajudicial and arbitrary detention."
China and other Asian nations were among 18 countries to vote against the resolution sponsored by European Union nations.
North Korea's deputy UN ambassador Pak Tok Hun called the resolution and the EU "confrontational."
"This is a miscalculation to expect any change from us through the forceful adoption of fake resolutions," he told the meeting.
China voted against the motion saying "human right issues should be dealt with through dialogue and cooperation."
China also led opposition to the resolution against the Myanmar junta, which highlighted the plight of political prisoners, the use of torture and inhuman treatment, child soldiers and attacks on civilians.
Despite the release on Saturday of Myanmar opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi, the resolution was backed by 96 nations and opposed by 28 with 60 abstaining.
"Finger pointing does not protect human rights," China's representative told the committee meeting.
Myanmar's ambassador Than Swe called the resolution "seriously flawed."

Day Opening - November 19

extreme sports...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Freedom of religion stops where animal suffering begins

Yesterday newspapers showed many pictures of slaughtered animals. These one in Turkey (click here) A Dutch newspaper showed a photo of a decapitated sheep’s head in a wheelbarrow. In the background the carcass is being skinned. Tuesday saw the start of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim festival of sacrifice, when sheep are slaughtered and the meat shared out among family and friends. But Dutch Party for the Animals leader Marianne Thieme would like to see a ban on ritual slaughter.
Ms Thieme’s bill to outlaw Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter will be debated in the Lower House next week. To win MPs’ support, she will be screening gory videos in parliament showing how conscious animals have their throats cut before being hoisted aloft, struggling as they bleed to death. The Party for the Animals wants livestock to be stunned before they are killed, as they are in non-religious slaughterhouses.
According to Ms Thieme, halal meat is big business in the Netherlands, and in fact a lot of meat on supermarket shelves comes from ritual slaughterhouses, though it isn’t labelled as such. She’s hoping that she’ll be able to win the backing of parties on both left and right. It’s a sensitive issue, she admits, but as far as she’s concerned, “Freedom of religion stops where animal suffering begins.”
Ritual slaughter is inmense cruel.

Holland - Turkey; Fireworks for the wrong reason

Türkiye! Türkiye! An hour before the match, the northern stands of the Holland Amsterdam ArenA were already turning red and white. Not the usual Ajax colours, but the shades of Ay Yıldız, with the moon and star shining on gigantic red flags. The noise was exceptional too, with the Turkish contingent shouting their lungs out, drowning out the bewildered orange army on the southern terraces.

A hellish chorus of boos and hisses engulfed the Holland team as they entered the pitch; the cheers for the Turkish side produced an equal explosion of decibels. An electrically amplified brass band brought some temporary relief, but the din swelled again when the match got underway.
The fans meant business and so did the players. The guests in white dominated the first ten minutes, culminating in a low drive by Burak Yilmaz, deflected just wide by Maarten Stekelenburg’s fingertips. But Holland soon bounced back, creating a flurry of opportunities which all ended in a shrill concert of whistles.

Match interrupted

Then there were loud bangs and red flares. Half a dozen landed on the pitch, prompting Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai to pause the match briefly.
The commotion set off Holland midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who fired a howitzer to test Turkish goalkeeper Volkan Demirel five minutes before the break, followed by a high shot by fresh Barcelona signing Ibrahim Affelay.
The substitutions brought more structure to the Dutch game, interrupted by yet more flares, and more chances. In the 52nd minute, Klaas Jan Huntelaar suddenly emerged in the box to chip in a subtle Hedwiges Maduro cross from the right: 1-0 to Holland.
More fireworks followed, much to the dismay of the Dutch players, the orange army and the ref, who consulted FIFA officials and Turkey's Dutch coach Guus Hiddink. The latter sent his captain to the northern stands to calm the crowd.
The move was the clarion call for a major Turkish offensive on the pitch, with a veritable barrage of shots at goal right until the last minute.

High stakes

1-0 was a result both sides could live with. For a friendly encounter, the stakes had been rather high. The Turks haven't been up to scratch in recent Euro 2012 qualifiers. After two wins and two losses, they currently trail Group A pacesetters Germany by six points and might find it hard to overtake second-place Austria and go through to the European Championship finals. A major defeat against Holland, the World Cup's runners-up, would have further eroded confidence.
It would also have been bad news for their coach Guus Hiddink, a Dutchman returning to his home turf to play the side he successfully led between 1994 and 1998. Faced with growing criticism about his conservative choice of players, Hiddink rejuvenated the Turkey team for Wednesday’s friendly in Amsterdam, picking up young talents like Bundesliga midfielder Mehmet Ekici. And the youngsters did well.
His Holland counterpart, Bert van Marwijk, had taken some risks too, calling up more than half a dozen players who were either injured or had just returned from injury, much to the annoyance of their club managers. Fresh injuries against a physical side like Turkey would certainly have sparked new rows.
In the end, little damage was done, apart from Mathijssen's injury and a hefty FIFA fine for setting off fireworks.

Day Opening - November 18

Autumn mosaic, the Netherlands

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


It's been a while since my last post, but this is one I didn't want you to miss.

Posts ago I explained a bit about the webbrowser Firefox and its useful add-ons. Add-ons are basically the same as IPone applications. Not only Apple, also individual people develop tools to add to their phone, internet browser etc.. And so did Eric Butler... He created Firesheep, an add-on for Firefox that intercepts passwords. To make people more aware of the dangers of non-secured websites and internet connections. Firefox already stated that they won't remove the application.

It works this way: make a connection with a non-secured wifi-network. Everyone who's Firesheep installed can scan the connection and intercept passwords of others using the same connection. Easy enough and also quite alarming. If you think your Facebook is well secured? Think again before logging onto a public wifi-network.

Butler received worldwide attention with hid add-on. To pass on his message: be aware of the dangers of using insecure websites.

Press freedom, Turkish style

An excellent article by Claire Berlinkis. And...yes, the foreign press in Turkey buys too easily in the AKP islamic spin. Enjoy!

Press Freedom Turkish Style

If Turkish citizens are taking to the streets to denounce Israel, who can blame them, given the AKP’s stranglehold on the media.

In May, a ship full of civilians – but not full of humanitarian aid – sailed from Turkey to join the Free Gaza flotilla. Having warned the Mavi Marmara that it would not be allowed to breach the blockade, Israeli commandos raided the ship. In the clash, nine Turks were killed.
I’ve lived in Istanbul for five years and I’ve spoken to hundreds of Turks about these events. A Turkish documentary filmmaker and I have filmed some of these conversations.
Something will immediately strike the viewer: the Turkish people have no idea what happened.
This is because the most basic facts about and surrounding these events have not been reported in Turkey.
In billing the flotilla as a humanitarian mission, the IHH – the expedition’s Islamist sponsor – exploited the Turks’ Achilles heel: their generosity.
Turks think of themselves as charitable and compassionate, as indeed they are. They genuinely believe, because this is what has been reported here, that the Palestinians are starving.
They know almost nothing about the reasons for the blockade. They believe that the ship was on a humanitarian mission and nothing but a humanitarian mission. They are bewildered that anyone would have interfered with such a noble-minded endeavor.
They do not know the most rudimentary facts about Hamas. As one man said: “These are elected people. It’s not like they took over by force, via a coup.”
Almost no one in Turkey understands any language but Turkish. If this obviously thoughtful man was unaware that indeed, Hamas took over precisely by force, via a coup, it is because he had no way to know. The men and women to whom we spoke were astonished when we told them that Israeli officials had invited the ship to disembark at Ashdod and deliver the aid overland.
But they were not disbelieving – and importantly, when we told them this, it changed their view.
Continue reading hereeeeeee


Darwin is not on my mind now. I am thinking abut how each one of us grows as an individual, and importantly, when. Think I am finally, finally growing up. Have you?

I have pondered a lot more on Life Rules... :)

Day Opening - November 7

Penguin song

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wednesday: Turkey against Holland

Wednesday will be a special day for the Turkish community in the Netherlands as Turkey take on Holland in a friendly football match at the Amsterdam ArenA. Thousands of supporters of Turkish descent are expected, adding touches of red to the orange army of Dutch fans.
This friendly encounter might feel like a home game for both teams, says Turkish-born Hayati Kulaksiz, Chairman of FC Ankaraspor in Amsterdam, who moved to the Netherlands 25 years ago.
“The atmosphere will be great and of course we’ll be going to the stadium to see the Dutch play too, not just Turkey. Many Turks here follow Holland matches, either live at the stadium or on their television sets. For us, Holland is our second national team, as it were.”

Dual nationality

Asked whether the inclusion of players of Turkish origin in the Netherlands could strengthen his support for the Dutch team, Mr Kulaksiz won’t be drawn. But he does have an explanation why none have been capped in recent years.
''Turkish talents with dual nationality are careful not to spoil their chances of joining either team, he says. Capped players cannot change allegiance, so once they’ve played for one national team, they won’t be allowed to play for the other.''
“This means Turkish players hold off a decision until there’s some degree of certainty that the national coach will stay in the job for at least a couple of years, because in Turkey, you can never be sure. That’s Turkish mentality, I’m afraid.”

Parents to blame

However, indecisive or not, the pool of top-quality players of Turkish descent here in the Netherlands is, unlike that in next-door Germany, simply not that big. But why? It all starts at a young age, explains Mr Kukaksiz, and it sets the Turkish community apart from the Moroccan community, which is roughly equal in size.
“You see Moroccan parents, even 60-year-old grandmothers, escort their children to the football pitch. But Turkish people in Holland register their kids with football clubs and then leave them to their own devices. They can’t be bothered to watch them play or train. They prefer to stay in their coffeehouses. I’ve seen talented players, 18 or 19-year-olds, who have the potential to start a professional career, but I know they won’t succeed, because even great talents need the support from their parents.”

German-Turkish stars

The situation is indeed different in Germany, where players of Turkish origin like Serdar Tasci and Mesut Özil are regularly called up to join Die Mannschaft, the national team.
“Around 80 percent of Turkish immigrants in the Netherlands are from the countryside, but in Germany the majority come from urban areas and have a totally different mentality. They’re less traditional and much more active. That’s the reason.”

Day Opening - November 16; Happy Bayram

Monday, November 15, 2010

Statement #46 - Ahmed Marcouch in the Church of the Remonstrant Brotherhood

''God created us as human beings, not as a believer. Without free will there is no faith.
A belief is by definition a result of free will, a conscious choice. If not, then it is not faith but an automatic and slavish response.
This belief stems from a free will, means that people also may choose not to believe.'' Ahmed Marcouch, MP for Labor in the Dutch parliament when he gave a speech yesterday in Vrijzinng Centrum Vrijburg (Church of the Remonstrant Brotherhood) 

Day Opening - November 15


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nerd humor

"Erdoganis" and "Talibanis": targeting fun in the Gazastrip

For the few with money in the Gaza Strip, a new water park provided relief from monotony and widespread misery. Hamas, though, has now burned it down -- and sent a message that even the elite must conform to the Islamists' restrictive rules.
All is quiet on this autumn morning at the Crazy Water Park, a couple of kilometers south of Gaza City. There are no children splashing around in the shallow kiddie pools, no men cheering as they shoot off the slides into the deep end of the pool. Wives and mothers are also missing from their usual spots under the umbrellas, where they normally sit, fully dressed, chatting and watching their children and husbands play in the water.
The Gaza Strip's only water park opened last spring but -- thanks to around 30 members of Hamas -- it was shut down in late September. One night at 3 a.m., these men appeared out of nowhere, tied up the park's 10 security guards and got to work with gas canisters and lighters.
continue reading herrrreeeeeee

Day Opening - November 13

Tourists on Glacier Vatnajökull c.1910 - Iceland

Friday, November 12, 2010

How stressed are the Dutch? A lot...)

Will more women working more hours make society more stressed? That was 'the question' in the Dutch parliament yesterday 'how to get more women to work more hours'. Social Affairs and Employment Minister Henk Kamp thinks it is a “cultural problem that most Dutch women are satisfied to work just part-time”. With an aging population, the government wants more women to work full time. Not surprisingly, the smaller Christian parties want more financial advantages for stay-at-home mums, while the liberal parties want financial incentives to get women into the workplace. The left-wing opposition want to avoid a stressful society and want more flexibility in the workplace.
The Netherlands Institute for Social Research says “the Dutch are under too much pressure”. A report by the institute reveals that over half the population between the ages of 25 and 60 regularly feel they are too busy. Women feel more pressure (60 percent) than men (52 percent).
It is no wonder they are so stressed: the Dutch spend more time travelling to and from work than anyone else in Europe. A report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development puts the figure at an average 50 minutes (in Istanbul it can go up to 2 x 2 hrs.)
Logically, it is parents with children under 13 (“rush-hour families”) who feel most of the stress. So what is the answer? Only seven percent of parents say they would work more if crèches were open longer. Forty percent say flexible hours would make a difference to their work-life balance. Others suggest starting work an hour later, working from home one day a week, and longer opening hours for shops and municipal services. But is there a danger that society will just become more stressed by a 24-hour economy?

Day Opening - November 12


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Post-festive gloom...

For now, there's a lull. A little more than a month to wait for another burst of festive spirit. December comes and brings with it the anticipation of parties, and almost always an introspective streak that makes us re-think, re-hope, re-gret... (little manipulation with hypens works wonders.. hehehe)..

But it's still November... And I am feeling a tad down as the Diwali lamps have died down, the rangoli has been wiped out, the garlands lining our doors have withered away... Everything reminds me of the fun we had and makes me want more of such wholesome times of togetherness. The family is close-knit even when dispersed the country over and it's amazing how support stealthily comes to you from all quarters when you need it.


I just noticed 2010 has been a quiet year for myblog. Here's sharing some posts I like before I can come up with "a proper post". (and what exactly is that, i wonder almost immediately after typing..
1) Can widowed women wear gajra?
2) Why has English become a necessity?
As I said in my first post here, it would be good to hear your views on the posts...

The hand of Michelle Obama

Day Opening - November 11

Geyser, Nevada, USA

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Good news from the EU on energy!

The European Union's energy chief today unveiled an ambitious 10-year trillion-euro energy investment plan for a single EU energy network to cut fossil fuel imports and fight climate change. "There is no single energy market," Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told a news conference. "We need to render energy European."
His proposals, geared to face up to what he called "one of Europe's greatest tests", will be eyed by European Union leaders at the bloc's first ever energy summit February 4, 2011.
While energy had over-ridden labour in terms of costs and fossil fuel imports were on the rise, Europe's energy sector was not competitive, with massive investments needed in new technologies and infrastructures.
"Europe cannot lose," he said, calling for one trillion euros (1.38 trillion dollars) of investment to improve efficiency and reduce pollution.
Regarding efforts to combat climate change, the commissioner said the bloc could realistically achieve its 2020 goals of slicing carbon emissions by 20 percent and increasing the use of renewable energies such as wind and solar power by 20 percent.
But without greater investments and a single will the EU would be unable to meet its commitment to increase energy efficiency, also by 20 percent, by 2020, he said.
The global economic crisis had hammered investment in new technologies while there were no constraints placed on national plans to improve energy efficiency.
Oettinger therefore called for public sector spending on energy to be verifiable -- the public sector accounts for 16 percent of purchases across the EU -- and for integration of national grids of gas, electricity and solar systems as far south as the Maghreb and Turkey, or wind energy in the north.

Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament welcomed the new EU energy strategy but said it had failed to set binding targets on states for energy savings.
Oettinger said the building of a single energy sector would also strengthen Europe's voice on the international scene.
The union's internal energy market was the world's biggest, he said, "bigger than China, bigger than the US".

Oettinger said oil would continue to be needed in industry as well as in air and heavy road transport over the coming decades but that urban transport and private vehicles must shift to hybrids, hydrogen and electricity.
Investment incentives and financial instruments would be proposed by the middle of next year to help home-owners and the public sector pay for renovations and energy saving measures, the commission said.
The commission proposed major projects to strengthen Europe's leadership in energy technology and innovation through new technologies, electricity storage, research on second-generation biofuels, and energy savings in urban areas.

Day Opening - November 10

nice view

Arash's World: Flaws and Dangers In The Democratic System

Arash's World: Flaws and Dangers In The Democratic System

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

EU's lift the visa requirement for Bosnians and Albanians

The EU's decision to lift the visa requirement for Bosnians and Albanians travelling to Europe is good news for them but the EU and Turkey still cannot even reach an agreement for Turkish business people travelling to Europe. The Albanian prime minister heralds,of course, the news as "the best greeting card Albanians could receive for the festive season". One very relieved Albanian woman reveals how difficult it used to be to obtain a visa for Belgium. A diplomatic row meant that she was unable to apply for a Belgian visa directly in Albania. Instead she had to travel to the Belgian embassy in Bulgaria, "which meant spending a week in Sofia, paying for a hotel and an interpreter to help you with your application".
But it has to be said that "the Netherlands was against, but voted in favour" of the measure. The Netherlands' new Immigration Minister Gerd Leers tells that there was no point in sticking to his guns as "it would have left the Netherlands isolated; this way we've achieved the best result possible". However, the result of this decision is "an emergency brake", which means that the visa requirement can be reinstated if "it turns out that the EU is swamped with Albanians and Bosnians who come here looking to stay".
The Dutch minister's position sounds plausible enough but,  it's cutting no ice with Geert Wilders, leader of the populist Freedom Party on whose support the government relies. He attacks the minister's performance as "extremely weak" and insists, "of course he should have voted against. This is a bad result: the borders are now open and that's no good for anyone in the Netherlands". He continues "We will judge Gerd Leers on his results. Let's hope they improve and that he shows more backbone."
The saga continues

Day Opening - November 9

Calton Hill - Edinburgh, Scotland

Monday, November 8, 2010

Arash's World: Flaws and Dangers In The Democratic System

Arash's World: Flaws and Dangers In The Democratic System

The Dutch boss -more and more people understand Dutch around the globe

People all over the world are speaking Dutch without knowing it. A new Dutch dictionary of loan words in other languages has just been published. Heading the list of export successes is the word baas. It turns up in no fewer than 57 languages, in forms ranging from ‘boss’ in English to ‘bosi’ in a Chinese dialect. In past centuries the Dutch set up plantations around the world, the author points out, all of them with Dutch bosses.

The word ‘gas’ also turns out to be a Dutch invention – or Flemish, to be precise. The term was apparently coined by Jan Baptist van Helmont around 1600.
Some Dutch words have even been packed off abroad and then re-imported in another form. Bolwerk (bulwark) and manneke (little man) were taken up by the French, and then ended up back in the Netherlands years later as boulevard and mannequin.
Not surprisingly, the former Dutch colony of Indonesia has absorbed the most Dutch words – 5568 in total. They range from gotperdom (from Godverdomme, God damn) to hip-hip-hura!
And what about the word 'asvalt'...pretty famous in Turkey...

Day Opening - November 8

Red October

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Answers from Stephen Hawkin (1)

From TIME:

Does the universe end? If so, what is beyond it?

Observations indicate that the universe is expanding at an ever increasing rate. It will expand forever, getting emptier and darker. Although the universe doesn't have an end, it had a beginning in the Big Bang. One might ask what is before that, but the answer is that there is nowhere before the Big Bang, just as there is no south of the South Pole.

Chinese artist brands the communist regime as 'inhuman'

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei branded the nation's government "inhuman" on Sunday and said the Internet would bring it to an end, as he remained under house arrest in Beijing.
Ai, who is one of China's most famous artists and social critics and currently has an exhibition at London's Tate Modern, was put under house arrest at the end of last week to stop him attending a gathering at his new Shanghai studio, which is due to be demolished.
"This society is not efficient, it's inhuman in many ways politically," Ai, 53, told AFP.
"The government, the whole system... sacrifices education, environmental resources and most people's interests just to make a few people become extremely rich only because they are associated with the government.
"This cannot last too long.... This society basically has no creativity. It's just cheap labour and very police-controlled. How long can that last?" he said over the phone.
According to an official order, Ai's house arrest is due to last until midnight on Sunday. While he is not allowed to leave home, others, including reporters, have been able to visit him.
Ai, who has managed to regularly update his Twitter account, said the Internet was a powerful force for change in China.
"The Internet is the best gift to China -- this kind of technology will end this kind of dictatorship."
Before his house arrest, the artist had planned a feast for supporters at the Shanghai studio on Sunday as an ironic celebration of a decision by authorities to demolish the building, after they had persuaded him to build it. He said the order came after he became increasingly critical of Shanghai's policies, writing for example about activist Feng Zhenghu, who for months was blocked from returning home from Japan. "That must have really irritated someone at a very high level," he said.
Ai said that despite being unable to attend the party himself, over 100 people had gone to the studio anyway and more were on their way.
Ai's work is currently being showcased at the Tate Modern, where he has filled the main hall with millions of porcelain sunflower seeds.
Perhaps his best-known work is his collaboration with Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuro, on the National Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, known as the "Bird's Nest", which he has since renounced as a fake "smile".
Source AFP/RWD

Day Opening - November 7

Long and windy road

Saturday, November 6, 2010

'lynch culture' in Turkey

Turkey has a long history of suppressing minorities in the name of nationalism, and a history of violence. There is also to a certain degree a ‘lynch culture’. Everybody who doesn’t fit it in is quick subject of an angry crowd. Mustafa Akyol experienced it and Orhan Kemal Cendiz wrote about it.
Hate crimes in Turkey
The Human Rights Agenda Association, of which I am a part, is currently conducting a project called “Combating Hate Crimes in Turkey.” Among other things, we plan to hold two public conferences on the subject, the first of which was already held on Oct. 16 in Ankara.
Discrimination and hate crimes have very deep roots in Turkey. They are so heavily ingrained in our political culture and social fabric that we are not aware of their very existence. In the first round of our conference series, Tanıl Bora, a well-known socialist thinker in Turkey, gave a rather thought-provoking lecture on “lynch culture” in Turkey.

First, he drew our attention to how the word “lynch” is used for events that could never be defined as a lynching in the real sense of the word. Politicians and public figures employ this word very often when they are criticized or verbally attacked; they claim that they have been “lynched” by their opponents. In quite a sharp contrast, real lynchings, which are not a rare occurrence in Turkey, are either never called a lynching or they never generate the emotional, ethical or legal response that a real lynching would normally attract in a democratic society.
Continue reading hereeeeee

Day Opening - November 6

Singing break by Verissimo Dias

Friday, November 5, 2010

Arash's World: God said to Abraham kill me a Son: Kierkegaard’s “Leap of Faith”

Arash's World: God said to Abraham kill me a Son: Kierkegaard’s “Leap of Faith”

Iran and the 'Great Satan' the USA...

Thousands of Iranians chanted "Death to America" as they staged yesterday a mass protest against the "Great Satan" to mark the 31st anniversary of the capture of the American embassy by Islamist students.

Iran annually on November 4 marks the anniversary of the capture of the US embassy by Islamist students in Tehran in 1979, months after the Islamic revolution which toppled the US-backed shah.
Yesterday, waving Iranian flags and carrying anti-US banners alongside posters of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the largely young crowd also shouted anti-Israel slogans outside the now closed US embassy. Banners saying "I will give my life for the leader (Khamenei)" and another quoting Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as saying, "If you want to shout, shout at the US", were displayed at the embassy compound, an AFP correspondent reported.
The embassy has remained shuttered and the US and Iran have had no diplomatic ties since then.
The students, who took 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days, said they were responding to Washington's refusal to hand over the deposed shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Ezatollah Zaragami, the keynote speaker at the rally and one of the 1979 hostage takers, hit out at US President Barack Obama.
"Obama has acted very weakly and badly when it comes to his foreign policy," Zaragami, who now heads Iranian state media, told the cheering crowd.
"The reason for that is that he is using an array of advisers who are exhausted bureaucrats."
The organisers of the anti-US demonstration, in their final declaration, said that Iran considers "America as the Great Satan and enemy number one".
Over the past three decades, many Iranians who led the storming of the embassy have however become severe critics of the regime they helped to establish.
This year's anti-US protest, one of the cornerstones of the Islamic regime, came days before expected nuclear talks which will see US and Iranian officials sitting at the same table for discussions on Tehran's controversial atomic programme.
US-Iranian animosity rose markedly during the tenure of former US president George W. Bush, who lumped Iran as part of an "axis of evil" along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The bitterness between the two nations has risen further since 2005, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office. The hardliner repeatedly launches anti-US tirades.
Iran's Khamenei, the all-powerful leader of the Islamic republic, has also made it clear he still distrusts the United States despite Bush successor Obama's initial diplomatic overtures towards Tehran.
On Wednesday, Khamenei praised the embassy takeover 31 years ago and expressed his distrust of US leaders.
"This act is the symbol of courage and intrepidness of the young revolutionary generation against the grandeur of America, because the capture of the den of spies (US embassy) destabilised the power of America," he told a gathering of students on the eve of the anniversary.

Day Opening - November 5


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Look who came calling?

A peahen lays eggs on our terrace or in the vicinity of our house each year. We have a lot of excitement when the eggs hatch and chicks jump down*. Thus begins the first adventure of their life: to jump across our boundary wall and into the fields. This time, we saw three chicks and this one (photo below) wandered into our garden...

"Mama, where do I go?"

To know if this chick found its way, and for more photos, read here

Dutch police officers send to Greek-Turkish border

The Netherlands is sending 14 military police officers and two police officers from the Port of Rotterdam to Greece to help prevent illegal immigrants entering the country.
The Dutch defence minister, Hans Hillen, announced yesterday that the 16 border police will leave for Greece this week. They will take part in European Union intevention teams.
The intervention teams will patrol the Greek border with Greek border police in Alexandroupolis and Orestiada on the Turkish/Greek border.
The EU-agency Frontex, which coordinates the monitoring of the outer borders of the European Union, is sending 175 experts. The 16 Dutch police officers will be replaced by other Dutch police officers on 1 December. Greece asked Frontex for help last week because Athens is unable to prevent illegal immigrants entering the country from Turkey.

Day Opening - November 3

Alentejo, Portugal

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dutch women...not so emancipated

Dutch women don't mind washing, doing the ironing or cleaning the toilet at home, market researcher TNO-Nipo discoverd. The majority of women are content to undertake most of the household tasks; 33 percent are even "very satisfied" with the division of chores at home. TNO-Nipo conducted their research among 1,300 Dutch women, aged 18-65.

But, men,... don't queue up for the Dutch woman of your dreams: women under 35 put sex as number eight in a "can't-live-without list" after their mobile phone, computer and internet. Women over 50 put sex in ninth place, which, considering their age, is quite high. Regarding the young lasses who prefer their gadgets, researcher Ingrid van der Werf explains: "It's a reaction against the hectic pace of modern life. But what surprises me is that women in general consider family life more important than work." Economist and columnist Heleen Mees: "It completely fits into the image I have of Dutch women - not emancipated." It will take some time before the Dutch follow in the footsteps of Brazil, where former guerrilla fighter Dilma Rousseff has become the country's first female president.

French secularism under threat

Muslim pupils and parents in France are increasingly making religious demands on the state school system that teachers should rebuff by explaining the country's secular principles, according to an official report.
The High Council for Integration (HCI) reported growing problems with pupils of immigrant backgrounds who object to courses about the Holocaust, the Crusades or evolution, demand halal meals and "reject French culture and its values."
"It is becoming difficult for teachers to resist religious pressures," said the report, published in draft form by the newspaper Journal du Dimanche over the weekend. The final report will be presented to the government next month.
"We should now reaffirm secularism and train teachers how to deal with specific problems linked to the respect for this principle," it said.
France's strict separation of church and state relegates religion to the private sphere, an approach challenged by a growing Islamic identity among some of the five million Muslims in the country's 65 million population.
HCI President Patrick Gaubert told the newspaper his agency decided to study how pupils from immigrant backgrounds adapted to the state school system because "this is at the heart of the challenges that French society must face."
The report, which studied a wide range of issues faced by pupils of immigrant backgrounds, gave no figures for the extent of problems linked to religion but said they came up so often in the hearings the HCI conducted that they merited attention.


Teachers often faced objections when they taught courses about world religions, the Holocaust or France's war in Algeria, or discussed events related to Israel and the Palestinians or American military actions in Muslim countries, the study said.
"Teachers regularly find that Muslim parents refuse to have their children learn about Christianity," it said. "Some think it amounts to evangelisation."
"Anti-Semitism ... surfaces during courses about the Holocaust, such as inappropriate jokes and refusals to watch films" about Nazi concentration camps, it said. "Tensions often come from pupils who identify themselves as Muslims."
Teachers found they could discuss the trans-atlantic slave trade but met criticism from pupils when they brought up the history of slavery within Africa or in the Middle East.
Reflecting the promotion of anti-Darwinist thinking in Muslim countries, "evolution is challenged by pupils who posit divine or creationist action without any argument for it."
In some areas with large immigrant populations, many pupils shun school cafeterias for religious reasons, even though most offer alternative dishes when pork is on the menu.
"Demand for halal menus is strong, even for the very young in public crèches," it said. "In some cities, there are petitions for halal -- and sometimes kosher -- meals."
The report stressed the state could allow alternatives to pork but could not allow halal or kosher meals because the price for ritually slaughtered meat included a tax paid to religious organisations that certify the food was properly prepared.
"The school cannot, in this sense, participate in the religious education of its pupils or conform to principles that it does not recognise," the report said.
France allows private religious schools and the number of Jewish schools has risen in recent years. There are few Muslim schools and most parents would have difficulty paying tuition.


During Ramadan, some Muslim pupils harass others who don't observe the annual daytime fast, it said. Boys who identify themselves as Muslims and reject French values harass girls who do well in class as "collaborators" with the "dirty French."
Some girls ask to be excused from gymnasium or pool sessions because they are not supposed to mix with boys, it added.
The report said French schools must insist on co-education, equal rights and mutual respect. "Being a French citizen means accepting challenges to one's opinions ... this is the price to pay for the freedom of opinion and expression.
"Must we recall that the crime of blasphemy has not existed in France since the French Revolution?" it asked.
"The principle of secularism leads to a profound relativisation of religion. This is a philosophical upheaval that religions only consent to with difficulty," it said.

Day Opening - November 2

Köln, Germany

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dutch weed and California

Dutch weed growers and coffeeshop owners have already flown out to California. They are waiting for a referendum on the legalisation of marijuana, which will be held tomorrow. They anticipate an opportunity to become rich men if the citizens of California vote in favour of legalisation.
The Netherlands has been a major source of inspiration for both the supporters and opponents of legislation. Supporters point to the success of the Dutch policy of tolerating the sale of small quantities of hashish and marijuana in so-called 'coffeeshops'. Opponents also use statistics from the Netherlands to support their view.
The man behind the referendum is 47-year-old Richard Lee. In 1991 he visited Amsterdam for the first time: "Fantastic. A wide variety of shops with coffeeshops paying tax and creating jobs. And it attracts tourists. We had to have that here too."
In 1999 he opened a Bulldog coffeeshop in Oakland, near San Francisco. With the same logo as the Amsterdam Bulldog and the same atmosphere. A sidewalk cafe, loud music and a smoking room where people with glazed expressions stare at a TV with the sound turned down. Of course you can't buy weed there yet, because of the police. However, they do tolerate you bringing your own stash along.
There is now a second coffeeshop in Oakland, the Blue Sky, which sells medical marijuana and has a similar Amsterdam feel.
In 2006 Richard Lee opened Oaksterdam University, modelled on the Cannabis College in Amsterdam. This gives courses relating to weed growing and is expanding fast. Compulsory subjects include law, the history of marijuana, and commodity studies. You can go on to train as a weed topper or coffeeshop manager. If California decides to legalise, this is where the experts will come from. The university - an unprotected title in the United States- has already awarded 12,000 diplomas.


The entire district in Oakland is known as Oaksterdam. Just like Amsterdam, there are bikes for hire and a cannabis gift shop. And there's an Amsterdam-style hashish museum. One of its most valued exhibits is an old price list from an Amsterdam coffeeshop, with the prices still in guilders!
Richard Lee came up with the legalisation referendum and paid for it out of his own pocket. It cost him 2.7 million dollars.
If it succeeds, the local authorities will issue licences for large-scale growing to supply the coffeeshops. The place is already swarming with Dutch coffeeshop owners and growers hoping for licences. "There's no doubt the Dutch weed industry would do very well here, since they have so much experience," says Lee. He plans to set up hundreds of Dutch-style coffeeshops.

Opponents of legislation also point to the Dutch model. Their main spokesperson is drug information officer John Redman.
"The other side are always talking about how weed does no harm and how wonderful it is in Amsterdam. So, let's look at the experiences in the Netherlands: the easier it is to get hold of weed and the more normal it's regarded to light up a joint, the greater the consumption."
He points out that marijuana addiction has caused serious problems in the Netherlands. However the figures for hashish and marijuana use in the Netherlands are actually lower than in other European countries with tougher legislation.
Redman claims the amount of hashish and weed that coffeeshops are allowed to sell has been reduced due to problems with drug abuse.
"If the referendum succeeds, as much as 28.5 grams would be permitted in California and it would be legal to have four plants. Imagine how much worse it will be than in the Netherlands, where 0.5 grams has already cause problems."
Is he sure about these figures? "Of course, the drug information service in the US has been saying this for ten years." I google the Dutch figures for him: thirty grams is allowed for personal use, coffeeshops can sell five grams at a time, and you are allowed five plants. John Redman's face turns pale. Just at that moment a van arrives to take him to the airport. He leaves hastily without further comment.

If the legalisation proposal is accepted, US President Barack Obama will be faced with a serious problem. The federal laws making cannabis illegal are still in place, as are the international treaties. Sending federal agents to California to bring weed smokers before the federal courts would cost an enormous amount of money and he risks damaging his popularity in California. If he does nothing he will alienate other parts of the United States.
So far, the opinion polls predict the referendum will be a neck-and-neck race.

Day Opening - November 1