Muslim Community Lobby Ireland is an independent organization established 1st May 2007. Its motto is TO USE THE VOTE RIGHTLY AND TO RAISE THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY AWARNESS WITH THEIR RIGHTS AND TO PROMOTE TOLERANCE AND UNDERSTANDING OF OTHER EXISTING GROUPS. لترشيد استعمال الصوت الانتخابي ولتوعية وتعريف المسلمين بحقوقهم في ايرلندا وان يعيشوا بتفهم للواقع وللجماعات الاخرى الموجودة على الساحة
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
We wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year.
We hope and pray that 2011 will bring you and your family health, happiness, peace, and prosperity.
In this holiday season, let us renew our commitment to make this world a better place for all of us and for our posterity. Let us work together to help bring peace, stability, freedom, and dignity to all of God's creations on earth.
Remember that through your support for CSID, you are making a difference, bridging the divide, and building a better future for all of us.
We look forward to working with you in 2011, and beyond.
Radwan A. Masmoudi
Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy
By JPOST.COM STAFF
US intelligence agency scarcely mentioned in cables, but wishes to check if ability to recruit informants hurt by whistleblower.
The CIA has decided to launch a panel, entitled the WikiLeaks Task Force, in order to gauge the effect of the leaking of thousands of US diplomatic cables by the whistleblower website, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
The US intelligence agency is launching the task force despite the fact that the CIA has been relatively untouched by the leaks.
WikiLeaks' Assange complains he's victim of leaks
2008 WikiLeaks cable shows US envoy’s astute insight
A major issue the panel plans to address is whether the CIA's ability to recruit informants was damaged by the belief that the US government is unable to guard its secrets.
"The director asked the task force to examine whether the latest release of WikiLeaks documents might affect the agency's foreign relationships or operations," the paper quoted CIA spokesman George Little as saying.
The release of the US diplomatic cables has caused Washington and several of its allies embarrassment.
Shortly after the initial release of the cables last month, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said the US is taking "aggressive steps" to find those responsible for the release of documents by WikiLeaks.
She explained that every country must be able to hold private conversations on concerning issues. She added that confidential communication is fundamental in the ability to serve public interest.
Clinton expressed confidence that the partnerships and relationships built by the Obama administration will withstand the challenge posed by the WikiLeaks exposure.
The political turmoil accelerated a day after Ireland requested a bailout from the European Union and IMF, likely to be worth around 80 billion euros, to shore up its banks and budget against the effects of the global credit crunch.
"What is needed now is an immediate general election so that a new government, with a clear parliamentary majority, can prepare the four-year economic plan, complete negotiations with the EU and IMF and frame a budget for 2011," Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said in an emailed statement.
His comments came after two independent members of parliament on whom Prime Minister Brian Cowen's government relies for support said they may withhold support from the 2011 budget due to be unveiled on December 7, effectively depriving the government of a working majority.
The challenge by Jackie Healy-Rae and Michael Lowry left Cowen's package of 6 billion euros of spending cuts and tax rises, a pillar of a four-year austerity programme that will be key to the EU and IMF bailout, in jeopardy.
Lowry said he would support the 2011 budget only if the main opposition parties, Fine Gael and Labour, had a role in devising it. Healy-Rae also said he might withhold support. This would leave the budget needing the support of opposition parties.
But public anger towards the government over its handling of the crisis has reached boiling point, and the opposition parties certain to benefit from an early election showed no sign of being ready to help.
The government is expected to announce on Wednesday that it will cut the minimum wage, slash social welfare spending, reduce the number of public employees and add a new property tax and higher income taxes.
Labour also called for parliament to be dissolved immediately. The minimum period needed to organise an election is three weeks.
"It is essential that we have a new government elected as soon as possible," Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said in a statement published on the party's website.
"My preference would be for a dissolution of the Dail (parliament) today and the holding of a general election at the earliest possible date provided for under law. This would allow the election of a new government by the middle of December."
Cowen's own coalition partner, the Green Party, said earlier on Monday it would support the government until the budget had been passed and the EU/IMF bailout was in place, but then quit the coalition. It called for an election in January.
"We have now reached a point where the Irish people need political certainty to take them beyond the coming two months. So, we believe it is time to fix a date for a general election in the second half of January," the Greens said in a statement.
"I regret very much that the country is in the hands of the IMF and I and my colleagues are deeply upset by what has happened, but we believe that we had to stay in government at all times to act in the national interest," Green Party leader John Gormley told a news conference. His party is expected to be all but wiped out at the next election.
Cowen said the government's four-year economic plan, to be announced on Wednesday, would involve 10 billion euros in public spending cuts and 5 billion euros in tax rises, on top of two years of harsh austerity and recession already endured.
Unions have warned this could spark civil unrest: a student demonstration over planned fee increases turned violent earlier this month, and unions have organised a march to protest at the planned austerity measures on November (Stuttgart: A0Z24E - news) 27 in Dublin.
The Socialist party Sinn Fein organised a demonstration outside parliament on Monday. About 50 people shouted "Cowen, Cowen, Cowen. Out, out, out!"
(Editing by Kevin Liffey)
Thursday, December 16, 2010
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Ireland has failed to properly implement the Constitutional right to abortion where a woman is entitled to one where her life is at risk.
The ruling will put issue of abortion back on the political agenda and is likely to force the Government to introduce legislation or official guidelines on access to abortion for women whose lives are at risk.
The Court unanimously ruled this morning that the rights of one of three women who took a case challenging Ireland abortion laws were breached because she had no “effective or accessible procedure” to establish her right to a lawful abortion.
The woman – known only as “C” – had a rare form of cancer and feared it would relapse when she became unintentionally pregnant.
However, the woman was unable to find a doctor willing to make a determination as to whether her life would be at risk if she continued to term.
This morning the court concluded that neither the “medical consultation nor litigation options” relied on by the Government constituted an effective or accessible procedures.
“Moreover, there was no explanation why the existing constitution right had no been implemented to date,” the court ruled.
“Consequently, the court concluded that Ireland had breached the third applicant’s – C – right to respect for her private life given the failure to implement the existing Constitutional right to a lawful abortion in Ireland.”
The court ruled that there had been no violation of the rights of the two other women involved in the case – A and B.
The Strasbourg-based court, which is separate from the EU, adjudicates on human rights issues among all 47 member states of the Council of Europe
The identities of the women who took the case - known are confidential.
Two of them are Irish and one is a Lithuanian national who was residing in Ireland. All of them travelled to the UK to have an abortion after becoming pregnant unintentionally.
They include a woman who ran the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus develops outside the womb; a woman who received chemotherapy for cancer and was unable to get clear advice on the dangers posed by an unplanned pregnancy; and a former alcoholic and drug abuser who feared her unplanned pregnancy would jeopardise her attempts to be reunited with her other children in the care system.
The women - supported by the Irish Family Planning Association - argued before the court last December that they were subject to indignity, stigma and ill-health as a result of being forced to travel abroad for their abortions.
The Government, however, robustly defended the laws and said Ireland's abortion laws were based on “profound moral values deeply embedded in Irish society”.
It argued that European Court on Human Rights has consistently recognised the traditions of different countries regarding the rights of unborn children. However, it maintained that the women’s challenge
sought to undermine these principles and align Ireland with countries with more liberal abortion laws.
The case was lodged before the court in 2005 and was heard last year at an oral hearing before the European Court of Human Rights's grand chamber.
This 17-judge court is reserved to hear cases that raise serious questions affecting the interpretation of the European Convention of Human Rights.
As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights – now incorporated into Irish law – the Government is obliged to remedy any breaches of the convention.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
This week, An Taoiseach Brian Cowen spoke with passion about the actions he has taken as leader of this country, and what he is doing to get us back on track.
His interview on RTÉ's Prime Time speaks for itself. Click on the image below to watch it, and spread the word.
Assertions have been dressed up as facts over the past 2 years. We need to have a debate based on facts, and not the false claims of the opposition and their cheerleaders.
Please watch the interview, and help spread the word using facebook, twitter, or by forwarding this link to your friends: www.fiannafail.ie/primetimeinterview.
Noel Dempsey TD
Minister for Transport
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
People drive slowly along a snow covered motorway near the city of Saint-Poncy, central …More
Enlarge photo People drive slowly along a snow covered motorway near the city of Saint-Poncy, central …More Enlarge photo A man using an umbrella crosses a snowy street in Essen, western Germany Enlarge photo A snowplough clears a local snowy road near Charbonnier-les-Mines, central France Enlarge photo A dog plays in the heavy snow in Linlithgow, in Scotland Enlarge photo A parhelion (sundog) combined with a halo is seen over Lake Malaren in central Stockholm Enlarge photo .More than 200 flights were cancelled at Frankfurt airport in Germany, the continent's third busiest, while southern German states were blanketed by snow.
Large parts of Poland were covered in thick snow, causing hundreds of accidents on the roads and at least four people were killed on snowbound roads in the Czech Republic.
It was so cold in France that electricity network RTE warned of cuts in the supply as the country looked set to top record demand levels while 20 percent of high-speed train services to the hard hit southeast were cancelled.
Switzerland suffered its coldest November night for 45 years as temperatures plunged below minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit), according to national weather service Meteosuisse.
Even Spain and Portugal were shivering after snow fell in the northern half of the Iberian peninsula.
Britain has been taken by surprise by its earliest widespread snowfall since 1993, forcing hundreds of schools in Scotland and rural parts of England to close and causing treacherous conditions on roads and at smaller airports.
Scotland and northeast England had fresh snowfall and the freezing weather has started moving down England's east coast while London had its first sprinkling of snow this winter.
London City Airport, a popular departure point for business travellers, was forced at one point to suspend all flights because of snow and ice before resuming with a heavily interrupted service.
Edinburgh, Scotland's busiest airport, was disrupted for a second day, but London's Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airports, said all its flights were operating normally.
Britain's Met Office issued severe weather warnings for most regions of the country and warned snow was heading south.
A 53-year-old man was crushed to death when a recovery truck rolled into two other vehicles in snowy conditions on a motorway near Doncaster in northern England, police said.
Scotland, on St Andrew's Day, its national day, recorded the coldest temperature in Britain overnight Monday with the mercury plunging to minus 15 degrees Celsius (five degrees Fahrenheit).
Thousands of schoolchildren had to stay at home in Scotland for a second day while 42 schools were closed in picturesque Cornwall in southwest England because of snow.
But the bitter cold in London failed to deter several thousand students from taking part in the latest demonstration against the government's plans to raise university tuition fees.
In Germany, heavy snowfall blanketed the southern states of Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Saxony and even colder weather is forecast across the country later this week.
At Frankfurt airport, even when the runways were cleared of snow, aircraft had to be de-iced, causing further delays.
By mid-morning local time, a total of 128 arrivals and 80 departures had been cancelled, with many other flights experiencing significant delays, an airport spokeswoman said.
In the eastern German city of Leipzig, a playful snowball fight descended into a violent melee involving more than 500 people.
"The black-clad mob threw not only snow but also firecrackers, bottles and rocks," a police spokesman said.
Police had to intervene to break up the mob and two officers were wounded in the fray late Monday, while the driver of a passing car also fell victim as the mob smashed his windscreen with a beer bottle and injured his arm.
On a lighter note, players from German Bundesliga football team Bayer Leverkusen said they would wear ski masks for their Europa League game in Rosenberg, Norway, as they battle sub-zero conditions.
The Czech Republic experienced up to 25 centimetres (10 inches) of fresh snow in some cities, causing power cuts and travel disruption. Four people were killed and 80 were injured on the country's roads.
The Polish capital Warsaw was snarled up by huge traffic jams after 30 centimetres of snow fell since Monday.
Lorry drivers were stranded in their vehicles for 20 hours near Warsaw after a truck skidded and blocked the road.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
I would like begin by thanking the many Deputies who have made considered and useful contributions to this debate on the Finance Bill 2010. I look forward to a constructive and informed discussion at Committee Stage.
In my reply, I will, as far as possible in the time available to me, address the points raised by the Deputies yesterday and today. There will, of course, be a further opportunity at Committee Stage to deal in greater detail with issues covered by the Bill.
The overall thrust of the Bill
Before moving on to address some of the points specifically relating to the provisions of the Bill itself, I would like to deal with some of the more general issues raised, particularly by Deputies Bruton and Burton. It was argued that the Bill did not contain a vision. Indeed Deputy O’Higgins felt that the Bill is unimaginative while Deputy Enright suggested that it is unambitious. I disagree.
This Bill contains significant measures which will enable Ireland to build on our existing strengths as an economy. These measures when taken together with our budgetary strategy, will protect existing jobs and create additional ones. They will support export-led growth in services and goods. This is the best, and the only, way of maintaining and enhancing our international competitiveness which I highlighted on 9th December as a key focus of Budget 2010. Unless we sharpen our competitive edge, we will be unable to return to the tried and tested strategy of export-led growth.
Some opposition Deputies described the Bill as a housekeeping exercise devoid of ideas to deal with the challenges facing us at present. I have to say that such a view contrasts sharply with the commentary from the industries and enterprises on which we will be relying to create well-paid jobs in this economy as we return to growth. It was suggested that the Bill lacks focus and places an unfair burden on taxpayers. This, after a budget that contained no personal tax increases and some reductions in consumption taxes! Let me say, it is the opposition which lacks focus or, more correctly, the ability to see or understand the ‘big’ picture.
Budget 2010 and this Finance Bill build on the work started in Budget 2009. Over the past 20 months, the Government has made significant progress in stabilising the public finances. The adjustments involved very hard decisions and I am well aware of their impact on citizens. But they were necessary to ensure the very financial survival of this country. Those decisive actions have enabled us to stabilise the deficit and have led to a reduction in the cost of borrowing by the State.
In the run up to the Budget, I made it clear that we could not tax our way out of our difficulties. I know the main opposition party agrees with me on this. Accordingly, the Budget focussed on expenditure and did not increase the burden of income tax. This approach also informed the development of the Finance Bill. Deputies will be aware that there are no tax increases in its provisions, apart from a number of measures aimed to ensure that high earners pay their fair share and I make no apology for including these measures.
In her contribution to the debate, Deputy Burton moved quite a distance from the subject to indulge in her usual rant about the banks and the builders. Loath though I am to follow her departure from the subject of this debate, I would like to deal with her accusations that I misled the House about the attitude of the IMF to NAMA. Deputy Burton was relying on a newspaper report of last Monday. I should point out that the note on which that report was based contains a ringing endorsement of NAMA by the IMF. In fact, let me quote: “the IMF would have been encouraging the adoption of a NAMA-type initiative even if the Minister for Finance had not already announced it”. It is quite clear from the note, which is now on my Department’s website that the IMF fully backed the Government’s policy on the banks and the establishment of NAMA.
I do not intend to replay the NAMA debate here this evening, but Deputies are aware that there was a very intensive debate about NAMA that culminated in the passage of legislation which allows guidelines to be issued by the Minister to the participating institutions to facilitate the flow of credit to SMEs. I would remind Deputy Burton that time and again during that debate, I said that we need to be clear that it is not in the interests of the banks or of this economy that the banks return to the excessive and imprudent lending of the past. That is the last thing we need. And it was in the context of a discussion about that very point that Mr. Seelig made his remarks about the impact of NAMA on the availability of credit.
We are all concerned about the availability of credit. That is why the credit guidelines were included in the NAMA legislation. But Deputies must also realise that it is not the intention of the guidelines to return to the over-heated, excessive, lending which occurred in recent years. What we want to ensure is that viable, sustainable, businesses and households can access lending. And, yes, that means we are going to have less bank lending than we have had in recent years.
The best way to ensure that credit starts flowing in the economy is through the creation of a healthy banking system. This is why NAMA was set-up to cleanse the banks’ balance sheets of toxic loans. It is the Government’s view that NAMA is the best way to restore stability in our financial sector which will enable banks make credit available in the economy. The IMF delegation agreed with this view and Deputy Kennedy made this point well yesterday.
Measures contained in the Bill
Mortgage Interest Relief
Moving on to measures contained in the Bill, I welcome the support given by Deputy Bruton, Deputy Kennedy and Minister of State Roche in relation to the extension of mortgage interest relief for those who bought at the peak of the housing market. The extension of mortgage interest relief will help those who purchased in 2004 or later, and the transitional measures may, as Deputy Kennedy highlighted, act as a stimulus to those who wish to enter the housing market at this stage. However, I would emphasise my commitment to remove this relief altogether by 2018 which will provide significant savings to the Exchequer.
I would like to take this opportunity to refer to comments made by both Deputy Crawford and Deputy Enright in relation to mortgage interest relief. Both Deputies seemed to suggest that mortgage interest relief is not available for individuals on low incomes. I must clarify for the Deputies that mortgage interest relief is a tax relief of up to 25% on interest. It is applied at source, thereby reducing the total mortgage payment. This relief is available to all qualifying loans regardless of the income of the mortgage holders.
Restriction of Reliefs
Deputy Burton referred to my Budget speech, where I indicated that high earners must pay their fair share. The amendments, announced in the Budget and set out in this Bill, to the restriction of reliefs measure, will severely curtail the amount of tax reliefs that can be used to reduce the income tax liability of those on high incomes. It will ensure that, in addition to PRSI and levies, those with high incomes and using reliefs will have an effective income tax rate of about 30%. This measure applies to a list of specified reliefs, including property based reliefs, the use of all of which has been curtailed as a result of this change. I thank Deputy Moynihan for his support on this and other taxation issues in his contribution.
Start ups and SMEs
Deputies Bruton, Burton and O’Donnell have all referred to the need for tax incentives for start-up companies.
Deputy Burton referred in particular to the need to help indigenous start-ups and I am providing in this Bill for an extension of the tax exemption for new start-up companies introduced in Budget 2009 to companies who commence to trade this year. I am aware of the recommendations of the Commission on Taxation in relation to this exemption. The Commission proposed that the exemption be extended to non-corporates, but that it should terminate in 2011. The current scheme, while still only available to corporates, continues to be available for three years. Therefore, new start-ups that commence trading in 2010 can continue to avail of the exemption up to and including 2012.
Deputy O’Donnell made reference also to the R&D tax credit scheme and proposed that the credit should be allowed to be offset against PRSI. This proposal is not new and I am aware of other proposals to allow companies set off the tax credit against their payroll tax liabilities. There are difficulties in acceding to these requests, not least the implications for the Social Insurance Fund into which PRSI contributions are paid and the fact that payroll taxes are paid by companies on behalf of their employees on a fiduciary basis.
The R&D tax credit scheme has been improved in most Budgets and Finance Acts since its introduction in 2004. I made very significant enhancements to the scheme in Budget 2009 and Finance (No 2) Act 2008, including an increase in the rate of the credit from 20% to 25% and, most notably, the introduction of a payable credit in circumstances, for example, where there is no Corporation Tax liability against which to offset the tax credit. These and other changes made to the scheme in recent years have made it one of the most competitive schemes of its kind around – something I would also point to in response to Deputy Burton’s assertion that Ireland’s only competitive advantage is its 12.5% tax rate. However, I would accept Deputy Kelly’s point that perhaps not all companies are as aware as they should be of its provisions.
I am conscious, of course, that there are reasons other than cash-flow reasons why certain companies and advisors wish to allow the tax credit to be set off against payroll costs. I believe, however, that it should be possible to devise an accounting solution which will deal with that the issues in this area.
The Financial Services Sector
I would agree with Deputy Burton that Ireland’s reputation, both from a financial regulatory perspective and from a tax policy perspective is the key to our future success. This Government has announced significant reform of the financial regulatory structures. Further significant progress will be made in 2010. For example, the legislation necessary to underpin the structural reform in the Central Bank is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2010. Ireland also fully supports the work of the OECD on transparency and effective exchange of information on tax matters. Recently, Ireland has signed 14 Tax Information Exchange Agreements with non-OECD jurisdictions and is playing a leading part in the OECD’s new Global Forum initiative on tax openness.
In relation to Islamic Finance, one of the measures in the Finance Bill designed to boost our offering in relation to international financial services, I would point out that Shari'a compliant finance is not only the fastest growing segment of international financial services but it is also perhaps the most 'ethical' form of international finance as it sets out strict rules regarding the nature and type of investments that may be made. I note also Minister of State Calleary’s support for this new growth area.
Capital loss issues
Deputy Burton mentioned also a front page article in The Sunday Business Post which alleged that a “Tax loophole cost exchequer €400 million in lost revenue”. Deputy Ardagh asked whether the figures quoted in the story were correct. The tax loss figure quoted in the story was, unfortunately, highly inaccurate. The amount of artificial capital losses claimed was €409 million – the amount of capital gains tax potentially under threat was in the region of €85 million. Furthermore, contrary to that newspaper report, I should point out that artificial losses are already being challenged by Revenue under the general anti-avoidance provisions contained in the section 811 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997. But, given the aggressive nature of these avoidance schemes, it was felt necessary to specifically legislate against these schemes in order to protect Exchequer revenues.
Deputy Burton asked why I didn’t do something before now about this matter. But Deputy, I have. While the UK introduced a “broad based” approach to tackling such aggressive avoidance in their Finance Act 2007, we already had the general anti-avoidance section in the Taxes Consolidation Act. We then took measures in Finance (No. 2) Act 2008 to counter aggressive avoidance schemes which had come to light at that stage, involving the creation of artificial capital losses. I will continue to keep such schemes under review with a view to developing further measures to address them. Let me just say: I am surprised that a finance spokesperson of Deputy Burton’s competence did not go the trouble of checking the facts on this matter for herself rather than relying on a highly inaccurate newspaper report.
A number of Deputies referred to the carbon tax. The purpose of the carbon tax is to send a price signal which recognises the environmental cost associated with the consumption of fossil fuels. This price signal will stimulate innovation and increase awareness of energy efficiency. As I have previously indicated the only exemption from the carbon tax will be in relation to those companies within the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) where a carbon pricing mechanism is already in place. I do not intend to offer exemptions for sectors outside the ETS. Once we start down that path, all sectors will make their own ‘special’ case and potentially we are left with a carbon tax that falls only on households. That would be unfair.
The impact of the carbon tax on agriculture has been mentioned by a number of Deputies, including Deputies Crawford, Breen, O’Mahony, Sherlock and Naughten. I appreciate the position many farmers currently find themselves in. However, I should point out that the excise on agricultural diesel is only around one-tenth of that applying to auto-diesel. That’s a significant concession. The new carbon charge has to be based on the emissions that arise from the fuel used. So to ignore such emissions would simply undermine the rationale for the tax in the first place. The current excise tax arrangements ensure agricultural diesel remains significantly cheaper than auto diesel.
Deputy Bruton pointed out that the application of carbon tax to coal and peat creates difficulties because of the potential for products with lower environmental standards to be sourced from the North. I agree with him and I can assure Deputy Bruton that I will not be introducing the tax on coal and peat until I am satisfied that this issue is addressed appropriately – that is why I have not signalled a specific date yet. I can inform the Deputy that work has already commenced on this matter within the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
Value-Added Tax on Local Authority Services
Deputy Bruton and Deputy Burton referred to local authority services being made subject to VAT. I understand the concerns arising here, but I would like to remind the deputies that this is a requirement arising out a ruling against Ireland by the European Court of Justice in July 2009. In order to comply with the Court’s ruling, it is necessary to amend the VAT Act to provide that public bodies, including local authorities, are made subject to VAT in general where they engage in activities that lead to a distortion of competition with private operators.
It should be noted that the services that will become subject to VAT (for example, waste collection, landfill, and recycling services) are already subject to VAT where provided by a private operator. The standard or the reduced VAT rates will apply as appropriate and the changes will apply from 1 July 2010. Education, health, water and passenger transport services will not become subject to VAT arising from the Judgment as they are otherwise exempted from VAT.
I should point out that business customers will not be affected by these changes as they can claim deduction for any VAT charged by a public body. The impact on private individuals, VAT exempt entities and other non-registered bodies, will depend on the degree to which the VAT is passed on by the public bodies, which in any event should be limited somewhat since public bodies providing the service will also have entitlement to deduct the VAT they incur on their inputs.
On a related issue, I would like to reassure Deputy O’Mahony that the abolition of tax relief on service charges, a measure recommended by the Commission on Taxation, is not happening this year, or even next, but will apply from 2012.
In relation to the Domicile Levy, Deputy Burton asked how many of the almost 6,000 ‘tax exiles’ will be affected by the Levy. She also suggests that the measure provides wide scope for the use of professional advisory services to mitigate its likely impact. As I have stated on previous occasions, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners there is no register or list of so called ‘tax exiles’ and there is nothing in Irish tax law that makes reference to ‘tax exile’ status.
The taxation of individuals in the State is in line with that prevailing in most other OECD jurisdictions. Individuals who are not resident here for tax purposes pay tax here only on income arising in the State and on income derived from working here. For the 2007 tax year (the latest year for which figures are available), 7,228 non-resident individuals filed Irish tax returns in respect of their Irish-source income or income derived from working here. The total amount of tax paid by these persons was c. €43 million.
Many of the individuals that show on their tax return that they are non-resident in the State do not have an Irish address. Many of these non-residents are foreign nationals or have a foreign domicile; and many of the non-resident Irish citizens or Irish domiciliaries included in this figure may have become non-resident for reasons unrelated to taxation, but who may have retained Irish investments (such as rental property). Individuals leaving the State are not required to give reasons for leaving. In other words, it is not true to say that 6,000 individuals are tax exiles. Some non-residents have an Irish tax liability but it is simply not true to say that all or most of them are Irish domiciled individuals who have moved out of Ireland for tax reasons.
As set out in the Finance Bill, the domicile levy of €200,000 will be charged on an individual who is Irish-domiciled and an Irish citizen whose world-wide income exceeds €1m, whose Irish-located property is greater than €5m, and whose liability to Irish income tax is less than €200,000. As it is difficult to estimate the number of individuals who satisfy these criteria, it is not possible to predict the number of individuals who will be subject to the levy. It is not expected that there will be widespread avoidance of the levy as suggested by Deputy Burton and the measure will contain anti-avoidance provisions.
It will be clear to Deputies that difficult decisions in all areas of policy must continue to be taken. However, such decisions are necessary to as we continue to restore sustainability to our public finances and enhance international confidence in Ireland as a place to do business.
Finance Bill 2010, giving effect as it does to a range of progressive and targeted measures, is a vital part of this process.
I look forward to Committee Stage where we will have the opportunity for a more detailed discussion on the measures contained in the Bill.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Forecasters are predicting high tides and winds of up to 100kmh, which could lead to flooding in Dublin, Galway and coastal areas.
Dublin City Council yesterday said that car parks at Clontarf and Sandymount would be closed on Sunday and Monday as a precaution.
Roads may also be closed over the weekend and the council has started deploying temporary flood defences across the city.
"There are concerns these high winds coupled with high tides could lead to flooding," said a Met Eireann spokesman. "Although the hurricane will be significantly weaker by the time it hits us, we are predicting winds of up to 100kmh and very high waves which always set alarm bells ringing."
Meanwhile, fallen leaves caused delays for commuters in Dublin yesterday as trains were forced to travel at lower speeds to reduce the risk of wheel slip.
Iarnrod Eireann said that poor rail conditions were a feature of this time a year, and over the last couple of weeks they had been putting a type of abrasive grit called Sandite on rails throughout the country to reduce danger. Most delays had been around 10 minutes.
- Edel O'Connell and Paul Melia
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Registration fee hike for third level expected
Student leaders have condemned the action of protestors who clashed with gardaí after a protest against plans to increase registration fees for third level students.
There was disruption in the city centre this afternoon after protests outside the Department of Finance on Merrion Street and the Dáil on Kildare Street.
Some people were injured during scuffles with gardaí on Merrion Row, while three gardaí received medical attention after being injured by objects thrown by protestors.
One garda has been admitted to hospital with a broken nose, the other two gardaí were treated at the scene.
Gardaí say that three people have been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage.
The three are being held at Pearse Street Garda Station.
Union of Students of Ireland President Gary Redmond said he is saddened by the actions of a minority of protestors in Dublin city centre today.
Mr Redmond said the occupation of the Department of Finance by a number of protestors was not representative of the USI.
He said that many of the clashes with gardaí occurred during the USI address to protestors on Merrion Square.
Gary Redmond said the actions of protestors engaged in a sit-down protest outside Leinster House were also not condoned by the USI.
A garda spokesperson said 50 people entered the lobby of the Department of Finance on Merrion Row but were removed a short time later by gardaí.
Meanwhile, the Socialist Workers Party has accused gardaí of assaulting some of their members and other protestors.
Spokesperson Karl Gill, a student at University College Dublin, said gardaí had aggravated a peaceful sit-in at the Department of Finance this afternoon.
Mr Gill said a small number of protestors who had occupied the Department were forcibly removed by gardaí.
He also alleged that one protestor had his head stamped on by a garda member and he says another female protestor was 'attacked' by a garda dog.
Mr Gill says six arrests have been made which the Socialist Workers Party is claiming were unlawful.
The violent scenes followed a peaceful USI protest against plans to increase registration fees.
An estimated 40,000 people marched to Merrion Square, where they were addressed by student leaders.
The union said any attempt to impose cuts on students will meet with strong opposition.
USI says thousands of students will be forced to drop-out of college if the registration fee rises again.
The latest speculation is that the charge will rise from its current level of €1,500 to €2,500.
The last big student march was in 2008 when 15,000 people took to the streets.
Protestors have now dispersed and streets in the city centre have re-opened.
'All areas considered for reductions'
The Taoiseach refused to be drawn in the Dáil this morning on whether third-level fees would be introduced or capitation fees increased in the forthcoming Budget.
He also rounded on the Labour Party decision to abolish third-level fees, branding it 'not very socially progressive'.
Brian Cowen said it was imperative that all areas would be considered for reductions and no area could be ring fenced or immune to cuts.
The Taoiseach said he could not divulge what was being discussed at Cabinet but no decisions had yet been taken. A good discussion was ongoing in relation to such matters, he added.
The Taoiseach was responding to Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore who said the revised Programme for Government had committed not to increase student contributions.
Mr Gilmore said the revised programme was produced in an economic environment that was not radically different from now.
He said it did not make sense to put more obstacles in the way of young people continuing education.
Mr Cowen accused the Labour Party of abolishing third-level fees for all in an attempt to hold onto its middle-class vote.
The Cabinet is considering other education cuts too, among them, Department of Education sources say class size at primary and second-level is likely to be increased.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Green ministers are believed to be preparing to raise the issue, after it was highlighted last week by the Herald.
There was also public outrage at the sight of members of the Government rolling up to Farmleigh House last Monday in their chauffeur-driven cars.
The 27 State cars being funded by taxpayers cost the exchequer about €11m a year.
Green Party leader John Gormley has indicated he is in favour of a car pool system.
At the moment, 19 Government members and five former taoisigh have a dedicated car and driver, while the perk is also enjoyed by the President, the Chief Justice and the DPP.
Paul Gogarty, the Greens education spokesman, told the Dail the Government needs to "scrap the ministerial Mercs as soon as possible".
He said the garda drivers need to be reallocated "back into working on the ground" and "a pool of junior ministerial drivers" has to be created.
Mr Gogarty said he accepted ministers "need to work while travelling and they cannot be driving".
"It appalled me to see ministers driving into Farmleigh in their Mercs, as it sent out the wrong message," he said.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is also in favour of a pooling system and he believes less expensive cars should be purchased.
The Herald revealed last week that former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will not give up his luxury Mercedes, even though he accepts the country is broke. He insisted he needs the plush S Class model for "security reasons".
A survey of each Department by this paper found that ministers are not willing to lose their Mercs.
- Cormac Murphy
Related photos / videos
Arrest after Harney paint protest
Enlarge photo .The TD was splattered across her neck, hands and clothes as protesters angry at health budget cuts gathered at the planned facility in west Dublin.
Despite the paint attack, Ms Harney continued with the turning-of-the-sod ceremony at the new Ballyfermot Primary Care and Mental Health Centre. The attack took place in the grounds of the unit as up to 20 protesters mounted a demonstration at the gates.
A Garda spokesman said city councillor Louise Minihan was released without charge about an hour later. A garda spokesman said a file would be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Ms Minihan said she poured diluted red paint over the minister to symbolise the blood Government had on its hands: "In one month's time the government will introduce what can only be described as a blood budget."
"The cutbacks in healthcare that will be contained in that budget will result in the unnecessary and avoidable deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the coming years.
"Today Mary Harney had the cheek to organise a publicity stunt at Cherry Orchard Hospital, where she was turning the sod for a long overdue mental health unit.
"This is the same hospital which has been starved of funding for years, where an entire ward for Alzheimer's and dementia sufferers was closed down during the summer."
Local councillor Brid Smith, who organised the protest on behalf of the Save Cherry Orchard Hospital Campaign, said she was surprised at the incident but could not condemn it.
"Louise was telling her she was attacking the most vulnerable in healthcare. It was a very dramatic moment."
Thursday, October 7, 2010
FORMER EUROPEAN commissioner Charlie McCreevy has resigned from the board of a new banking firm after an EU ethics committee found a conflict of interest with his work as commissioner in charge of financial regulation.
Mr McCreevy stepped down from the board of NBNK Investments on Wednesday night on foot of a negative opinion from the committee, which was established by the commission to assess his employment by the firm.
This is first time that a former member of the EU executive has had to resign a directorship since it introduced the current system for overseeing the work of retired commissioners in 2003.
NBNK Investments was set up during the summer by former Lloyds chairman Lord Levine to pursue acquisition opportunities in the British banking sector. As institutions seek to recover from the financial crash, some large players are selling assets to comply with EU competition rulings.
ARTHUR BEESLEY European Correspondent
According to its website, NBNK’s proposition is to build primarily through acquisition “a new and substantial UK bank”. As internal markets commissioner, Mr McCreevy was the originator of new legislation to set up a new pan-European system of financial regulation.
NBNK took a £50 million (€57.86 million) stock market listing on the Alternative Investment Market in London in August with funding from investors including Aviva, FC Management, Invesco and Och-Ziff Capital Management.
Amid criticism of Mr McCreevy’s directorship earlier this week, the company said the former internal markets commissioner would have a “less substantial” board role until the first anniversary of his retirement from the Commission in February. It also said he would not receive directors’ fees in that period.
A spokesman for NBNK Investments acknowledged Mr McCreevy’s departure and said he was not in a position to ask the former commissioner whether he had any comment on the committee’s ruling.
In a statement, the company said Mr McCreevy resigned from the board with immediate effect to fully comply with his obligations as a former member of the commission.
When Mr McCreevy was approached initially to join the board of NBNK Investments, he notified the commission’s authorities “as required”, the statement said.
“Following a dialogue with the European Commission, it has not been possible to find a way in which Mr McCreevy can continue with his directorship of NBNK in a manner compatible with his standard responsibilities as a former European commissioner.”
The statement went on to say that the board respected and understood his position.
Mr McCreevy’s appointment to the company prompted criticism in the European Parliament, where generous “transition” allowances that he and many of his former commission colleagues receive have met with a frosty reception.
Criticising Mr McCreevy’s board role, Labour MEP Nessa Childers had complained that NBNK was “feeding off the financial crisis” fanned by Mr McCreevy’s “light-touch” approach to financial regulation. This “bitter irony”, she said, would not be lost on people who lost their jobs due the financial crisis.
The ethics committee, which reported in recent days, was the second to examine Mr McCreevy’s work since he left the commission.
Last May, another committee cleared his membership of the Ryanair board, but said he could not advise the airline on any case involving its business which came before the EU executive’s internal markets division when he was commissioner.
Mr McCreevy’s remuneration from Ryanair would be deducted from his €11,150 per month “transition allowance”. He also receives an annual ministerial pension of €74,746 and a €52,213 pension for having served as a TD.
Friday, September 24, 2010
September 22, 2010
A DEFENSE OF FREE SPEECH BY AMERICAN AND CANADIAN MUSLIMS
We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.
We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.
We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur'an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.
We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.
As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance, respect, and forgiveness.
The Qur'an enjoins Muslims to:
•bear witness to Islam through our good example (2:143);
•restrain anger and pardon people (3:133-134 and 24:22);
•remain patient in adversity (3186);
•stand firmly for justice (4:135);
•not let the hatred of others swerve us from justice (5:8);
•respect the sanctity of life (5:32);
•turn away from those who mock Islam (6:68 and 28:55);
•hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant (7:199);
•restrain ourselves from rash responses (16:125-128);
•pass by worthless talk with dignity (25:72); and
•repel evil with what is better (41:34).
Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts, but always within the boundaries of the law. It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country.
We uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both protect freedom of religion and speech, because both protections are fundamental to defending minorities from the whims of the majority.
We therefore call on all Muslims in the United States, Canada and abroad to refrain from violence. We should see the challenges we face today as an opportunity to sideline the voices of hate-not reward them with further attention-by engaging our communities in constructive dialogue about the true principles of Islam, and the true principles of democracy, both of which stress the importance of freedom of religion and tolerance.
1.Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, PhD, Director, Minaret of Freedom Foundation
2.Prof. Akbar S. Ahmed, PhD, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University
3.Prof. Parvez Ahmed, PhD, Fulbright Scholar & Assoc. Prof. University of North Florida
4.Wajahat Ali, playwright, journalist, and producer of "Domestic Crusaders"
5.Sumbul Ali-Karamali, JD, LLM (Islamic Law), author of "The Muslim Next Door"
6.Salam al-Marayati, Pres., Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
7.Shahed Amanullah, Editor-in-Chief, Altmuslim
8.Shahid Athar, M.D., Editor, Islam-USA
9.Hazami Barmada, Pres, American Muslim Interactive Network (AMIN)
10.M. Ali Chaudry, PhD, President, Center for Understanding Islam (CUII)
11.Robert D. Crane, JD
12.Mohamed Elsanousi, Director of Communications and Community Outreach for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
13.Mona Eltahawy, journalist
14.Prof. Mohammad Fadel, PhD
15.Hesham Hassaballa, M.D., author, journalist, blogger - "God, faith, and a pen"
16.Arsalan Iftikhar, author, human rights lawyer, blogger - "The Muslim Guy"
17.Jeffrey Imm, Director, Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.)
18.Prof. Muqtedar Khan, PhD, author of several books, Blogger - "Globalog"
19.M. Junaid Levesque-Alam, writer, blogger - "Crossing the Crescent"
20.David Liepert, M.D., blogger and author of "Muslim, Christian AND Jew"
21.Radwan A. Masmoudi, PhD, President, Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID)
22.Melody Moezzi, JD, MPH, writer and attorney
23.Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, author of many books of poetry
24.Sheila Musaji, Editor, The American Muslim (TAM)
25.Aziz H. Poonawalla, PhD, scientist and blogger - "City of Brass" on Beliefnet.com
26.Hasan Zillur Rahim, PhD, journalist
27.Prof. Hussein Rashid, PhD, blogger - "Religion Dispatches"
28.Robert Salaam, blogger - "The American Muslim"
29.Tayyibah Taylor, Editor, Azizah Magazine
30.Amina Wadud, PhD, consultant on Islam and gender, visiting scholar Starr King School for the Ministry
31.G. Willow Wilson, author of "Butterfly Mosque" and "Air" graphic novel series
NOTE: If you would like to add your signature, please send an email with your name, title, and organizational affiliation (if any) to:
Read Full Statement
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Garda body can use state funds for action
By Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent
A garda body which is threatening to take strike action over pay cuts is getting more than €235,000 a year from the Department of Justice.
Accounts to be scanned in welfare fraud crackdown
By Fionnan Sheahan and Michael Brennan
SUSPECTED social-welfare cheats will have their bank accounts scanned under new anti-fraud powers.
Unions want private sector on board for national protest
By Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent
UNION leaders plan to get private sector workers on board for a disruptive campaign of industrial action after public servants suffered a €1bn pay cut.
Doctor accuses Lenihan of fuelling alcohol problems
By Anita Guidera
A LEADING accident and emergency consultant has described the Budget's reduction in the price of alcohol as a retrograde step for public health.
Our sea is still choppy but the ship is being steered at last
By Maeve Dineen
Fishermen will tell you that when weather, wind and currents are on the turn, a curious, choppy and deceptive water (it's called "an uncertain sea") is the result. Such a sight is worrying not only to a captain trying to chart his course, but also to his spirit.
Think this Budget was bad? It'll get worse
THE €1bn pay cut hurled at public-sector workers in last Wednesday's Budget could be the least of their worries.
Now is our era of truth and consequences
By Alan Ruddock
BRIAN Lenihan put an end to the dithering and indecisiveness of this Government last week and opted instead for consequences. All the messing and prevaricating of the previous week was put to one side as he read his Budget speech to the Dail and announced that, at long last, this Government had found the strength to lead.
Forget the myths, cutbacks spared us a Greek tragedy
By Marc Coleman
'Those bastards, they're taunting us," said Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead. "No, no. You couldn't be more wrong. They're saluting you, they're saluting fellow braves," said Lieutenant Adendorff. If, like me, you're stocking up on classic Sixties movies for Christmas, I can highly recommend the 1963 movie Zulu. Richard Burton's majestic intro and epilogue aside, the two final lines by actors Michael Caine and Gert van den Burgh will bring a lump to your throat.
Fionnan Sheahan: Cowen clears hurdles but he must get off the fence
By Fionnan Sheahan
After a flurry of high-profile PR outings, the Taoiseach has lapsed back into his old habits, worse than ever before
Thursday, September 9, 2010
May the Eid fill your life with happiness and properity
May all your family be with you on the day of Eid
May Allah grant you success in this life and the hereafter
Come with your Happiness
Come with your Joy
Eid day Eid day Eid day happy day
Come to wipe tears off refugees
come to give orphans to families
Come to make old people feel wanted
Eid day Eid day Eid day happy day
Answer: Eid al-Fitr falls on the first day of Shawwal, the month which follows Ramadan in the Islamic calendar. It is a time to give in charity to those in need, and celebrate with family and friends the completion of a month of blessings and joy.
Before the day of Eid, during the last few days of Ramadan, each Muslim family gives a determined amount as a donation to the poor. This donation is of actual food -- rice, barley, dates, rice, etc. -- to ensure that the needy can have a holiday meal and participate in the celebration. This donation is known as sadaqah al-fitr (charity of fast-breaking).
On the day of Eid, Muslims gather early in the morning in outdoor locations or mosques to perform the Eid prayer. This consists of a sermon followed by a short congregational prayer.
After the Eid prayer, Muslims usually scatter to visit various family and friends, give gifts (especially to children), and make phone calls to distant relatives to give well-wishes for the holiday. These activities traditionally continue for three days. In most Muslim countries, the entire 3-day period is an official government/school holiday.
Racist crime (which is dealt with under the criminal law) is a matter for the Minister for Justice and Law Reform and An Garda Síochána. OMI monitors trends only.
Racial discrimination in the provision of goods and services (dealt with under the civil law Equal Status Acts) or in employment (dealt with under the civil law Employment Equality Acts) falls within the remit of the Minister of State for Equality, Integration and Human Rights, as do anti racism measures (funding the annual Holocaust Memorial Event, developing diversity/intercultural strategies are examples). Discrimination and harassment in relation to and within employment on nine grounds, including race, religion and membership of the Traveller community, are outlawed by the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2008. Discrimination and harassment on the same grounds in the supply of goods or services, education or accommodation are prohibited under the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2008.
The Statutory Equality Agencies
Two agencies are established under the equality legislation - the Equality Authority and the Equality Tribunal.
The Equality Authority's functions are to combat discrimination and promote equality of opportunity in the areas covered by the Acts, to monitor and keep the Acts under review and to make recommendations to the Minister for change. The Equality Authority's powers include those of conducting equality reviews of action plans, preparing codes of practice, conducting inquiries, providing legal assistance to and taking cases on behalf of claimants under the Acts and conducting research on equality related issues.
The Equality Authority operates a Public Information Centre providing information on the Acts to members of the public. The Authority may also take cases in its own name in certain circumstances.
The Authority also supports public and private sector organisations to develop their organisational systems to promote equality and to combat discrimination. The Equality Authority is currently operating a Workplace Diversity Initiative, funded by OMI , to support IBEC, Congress and 3 local Chambers to promote diversity in the workplace.
The Authority has also published a number of reports assessing levels of discrimination in Ireland, including on the race ground. Its most recent report on discrimination on the race ground is Discrimination in Recruitment: Evidence from a Field Experiment (ESRI, 2009) which found that job applicants with Irish names were over twice as likely to be invited to interview for jobs as candidates with identifiably non-Irish names.
The Equality Tribunal is an accessible and impartial forum to remedy unlawful discrimination. It is an independent statutory office which investigates or mediates complaints of unlawful discrimination. It operates in accordance with the principles of natural justice and its core values are impartiality, professionalism, accessibility and timeliness. The Tribunal has jurisdiction in all the areas covered by the Equality legislation, with the exception of service in licensed premises where claims of discrimination can be brought before the District Court under the intoxicating Liquor Act 2003.
The equality legislation also permits complaints to be referred in respect of discrimination on any combination of the nine discriminatory grounds. Multiple grounds are specified in approximately one fifth to one quarter of complaints referred annually to the Equality Tribunal.
Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is an independent police complaints authority established by the Garda Síochána Act 2005. It became operational in May 2007. It is responsible for receiving and dealing with all complaints made by members of the public concerning the conduct of members of An Garda Síochána. According to its Annual Report 2009, the number of complaints in which discrimination was suggested as a motive was 82 (up from 61 in 2008 and 11 in 2007). Unfortunately, the Commission's statistics do not currently distinguish between the different types of discrimination. We are in discussions with them about this.
Racist material on the internet
Racist material on the internet is a matter for the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, An Garda Síochána and the Internet Service Providers Hotline (www.hotline.ie) which was launched in 1999 to provide an anonymous reporting service to members of the public who uncover illegal content on the internet. The hotline was established primarily to report incidences of Child Pornography but later became the responsible body for receiving reports of financial scams and racist material. There is an Office for Internet Safety in the Department of Justice and Law Reform but their remit is currently limited to reports re child pornography - the office was originally set up to deal with child pornorgraphy on the internet. The primary work of the Irish Hotline service is to remove illegal material on websites hosted in Ireland. If hotline.ie assesses the material to be probably illegal under Irish Law the location of the illegal material is then traced. If found to be hosted or distributed from Ireland, An Garda Síochána and the relevant ISPAI member are notified, so the material can be removed from public internet access and an investigation may be initiated. However, some material that is reported is contained on sites hosted in other jurisdictions. If reported material is found to be hosted outside Ireland, details of the illegal content are forwarded via the "INHOPE" hotline. INHOPE, the International Association of Internet Hotlines, exchanges reports of illegal on-line content to expedite the investigation of such material by the competent law enforcement body in the countries in which the material associated with each report is hosted. Where the source country does not have an INHOPE member Hotline, the report is sent to An Garda Síochána for transmission through police channels. In some countries, for example the United States, the INHOPE hotlines deal solely with reports of child pornography.
Material contained on many of the large social networking sites are hosted in the United States including content uploaded onto "Facebook". We understand that a large portion of the material contained on these US sites which are reported because they are considered offensive may not be considered illegal under Amendment 1 of the US Constitution which covers freedom of expression. In these cases, it is not possible to have the material removed
Press Council and the Broadcasting Commission
Complaints can also be made to the Press Council and the Broadcasting Commission in appropriate cases.
Legislation (criminal law) regarding racist crime is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice and Law Reform. Legislation (civil law) in relation to racial discrimination is a matter for the Minister for Equality, Integration and Human Rights.
A range of domestic legislation is relevant to the issue of racism, as follows:
A - Civil Law
· Equality Acts (see above)
B - Criminal Law
· Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989
· Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994
· Non- Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997
· Criminal Damage Act 1991
The use of words, behaviour or the publication or distribution of material which is threatening, abusive or insulting and are intended, or are likely, to stir up hatred are prohibited under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989. Broadcasts likely to stir up hatred along with preparation and possession of material likely to stir up hatred are also prohibited under the Act. The Act offers comprehensive protection to persons having hatred incited against them on account of their race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, membership of the travelling community or sexual orientation.
The provisions of other Acts such as the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 and the Criminal Damage Act 1991 can also be used to protect persons and their property against attack, including racist attack.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
The news came as a US congressman called for the alleged whistleblower, Private Bradley Manning, to be executed if found guilty of releasing the documents.
A WikiLeaks spokesman in Germany, Daniel Schmitt, told the Daily Beast news site that WikiLeaks wanted help in removing the names of Afghan civilians and others who might be endangered when more reports were made public.
Advertisement: Story continues belowThe Pentagon said it had not been contacted by WikiLeaks. A spokesman refused to speculate on what its response would be should assistance be requested.
Last week WikiLeaks released 75,000 classified documents on the Afghan war.
The US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said that the release of the documents was potentially life-threatening.
Admiral Mullen said the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and his colleagues ''might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family''.
Mr Assange, while rejecting the claim, said he would ''deeply regret'' any harm caused by the disclosures. The Taliban said they would go through the documents to identify traitors.
A Republican congressman, Mike Rogers, said the alleged source of the war logs should be charged with treason and tried by a military tribunal.
Asked if treason during wartime was an offence punishable by death, he said: ''Yes, and I would support it 100 per cent.
''The death penalty clearly should be considered here … [Private Manning] clearly aided the enemy to what may result in the death of US soldiers or those co-operating. If that is not a capital offence, I don't know what is.''
Military officials said Private Manning, 22, was a ''person of interest'' in the WikiLeaks investigation. He was already being detained by the US military in Kuwait on suspicion of having leaked other sensitive information, including a video of a US helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed Iraqi civilians.
Democratic senators who have been working on legislation to provide greater protection to reporters who refuse to identify confidential sources are backpedalling from including organisations such as WikiLeaks in their legislation.
Two senators, Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein, are drafting an amendment to make it clear that the bill's protections extend only to traditional news-gathering activities and not to websites that serve as a conduit for the mass dissemination of secret documents. The so-called ''media shield'' bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate.
US public support for the Afghan war and Barack Obama's handing of the conflict has hit an all-time low since the WikiLeaks revelations, a new poll shows. The President's overall ratings also declined to a new low, with only 41 per cent of Americans saying they approved of his performance, the USA Today/Gallup poll found.
The proportion of people who say the US made a mistake in sending troops to Afghanistan rose to 43 per cent, compared with 38 per cent before the release of the documents.
Confidence in Mr Obama's war policy is now at 36 per cent.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Paul Berman will have none of this. His book The Flight of the Intellectuals, based on a 28,000-word essay published three years ago in The New Republic, mounts a furious counterattack from the bygone days of the Bush administration. Too many in the United States and Europe, Berman argues, are confronting the wrong enemy. Violent Islamists do not pose the greatest danger; instead, it is their so-called moderate cousins, who are able to draw well-meaning liberals into a poisonous embrace. Their rejection of violence is both partial -- not extending to Israel or to U.S. troops in Iraq -- and misleading. In Berman's telling, the Islamist project of societal transformation from below does profound violence to the individual Muslims who are forced to live in an increasingly constricted milieu. The only defensible response is to repel the stealth Islamism of putative moderates with a morally pure vision of liberalism.
But such a polemic, in fact, poorly serves those concerned about the rise of political Islam in the West. Berman does flag important debates about Islam's impact on Europe and the world, but he is an exceedingly poor guide to navigating them. His reading of Islamism, based on a narrow selection of sources read in translation and only a sliver of the vast scholarship on the subject, fails to grasp its political and intellectual context. He is blind to the dramatic variation and competition across and within groups -- above all, to the fierce war between the Salafi purists who call for a literalistic Islam insulated from modernity and the modernizing pragmatists who seek to adapt Islam to the modern world. This blindness feeds the worst instincts of those hard-liners who are fomenting an avoidable clash between Islam and the West. His obsession with Nazism is distracting, and his dissection of Ramadan approaches the pathological. His caustic rhetoric toward writers such as Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash does not suggest the liberal or tolerant ethos to which he claims allegiance.
This is a pity, for Berman does raise several powerful and troubling questions. Islamists, even nonviolent ones, do often challenge Western liberals by advocating social norms and political agendas that run against the historical tenets of liberalism. What accommodations can be made for religious conviction without betraying core Enlightenment principles? What to make of the popularity and electoral prowess of Islamist movements across the Muslim world? It is impossible to support democracy without being prepared to defend the rights of Islamist movements to participate in and win elections. Yet the religious and cultural agendas of many of these groups should trouble Western liberals, even if these movements support the peaceful democratic aspirations of Muslims across the world. If a culture war against Islam is not the answer, then how should Western liberals respond to genuinely popular and nonviolent Islamist movements that are committed to working within democratic institutions but that promote values at odds with progressive standards of freedom, equality, and tolerance?
FATHERS AND SONS
Berman's lodestar for addressing these questions is Ramadan, a Muslim public intellectual born in Switzerland in 1962. Ramadan descends from vaunted Islamic stock: his maternal grandfather was Hasan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928, and his father was Said Ramadan, a high-profile figure in the Muslim Brotherhood who fled repression in Egypt. Berman searches for the true Ramadan in his biography (researching Banna and Said Ramadan), in his intellectual influences (looking into the Doha-based Islamist Yusuf al-Qaradawi), in his (unpublished) dissertation, in his books, in his public exchanges, and in the growing library of critical books about him -- but not, apparently, by speaking to him directly. Nonetheless, after years of effort and a couple hundred pages of inspection, Berman finds Ramadan to be an elusive figure. Berman is sure that Ramadan is hiding his true agenda, although he can never quite produce a smoking gun. He allows that Ramadan is not "engaged in some kind of elaborate conspiracy or . . . acting on a secret plan" and that his ambition, "so far as [he] can judge, is what he says it is." But it is precisely that ambition -- the nonviolent project of Islamic revival in Europe -- which troubles Berman.
Berman's unease lies in the very different notions found in the democratic societies of the West and the often authoritarian systems of Muslim-majority countries of how Muslims should understand their identities, practice their faith, and engage in politics. Ramadan is a pragmatist, seeking a way for European Muslims to be both fully European and fully Muslim. His 2003 book, Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, which Berman reads as concealing the truth beneath "a veil of euphemism," in fact lays out a sophisticated argument for how Muslims can be full citizens of their countries while retaining their religious identity. In What I Believe, Ramadan is even more clear: "I state firmly that we have multiple, moving identities and that there is no reason -- religious, legal, or cultural -- a woman or a man cannot be both American or European and Muslim." This is a positive obligation, he argues: "It is up to Muslim individuals to be and become committed citizens, aware of their responsibilities and rights."
But this is an option from which Berman recoils. He prefers Muslims to be secular and does not want to see the kind of bridge Ramadan is constructing. His truncated understanding of the diversity of Islamic politics causes him to miss the significance of Ramadan's exhortations to European Muslims to participate in politics as full, engaged, and equal citizens. Berman similarly underplays Ramadan's doctrinal rejection not only of terrorism but also of narrow, Salafi jurisprudence. Ramadan has little use for the puritanical versions of Islam that have taken root in many Muslim communities and crowded out other forms of piousness -- a process that Khaled Abou El Fadl, a professor of Islamic law at UCLA, has called "the great theft."
Berman gets Ramadan's struggle backward. Ramadan's primary adversaries are not liberals in the West but rather literalistic Salafists whose ideas are ascendant in Muslim communities from Egypt and the Persian Gulf to western Europe. For Salafists, a movement such as the Muslim Brotherhood is too political, too accepting of civil institutions, and insufficiently attentive to the formalistic and public rituals of Islam. They urge Muslims to separate from Western societies in favor of their own allegedly pure Islamic enclaves. The Muslim Brotherhood has encouraged women to wear the veil, but only so that they can demonstrate virtue while in universities and the workplace. The Salafists, meanwhile, want women at home and strictly segregated from men. True liberals should prefer Ramadan because he offers a model for Muslims of integration as full citizens at a time when powerful forces are instead pushing for isolation and literalism.
Ramadan has not couched his challenge to the Salafists in abstract language or kept it from public view. For example, when Salafi opponents have confronted him with Koranic verses dictating that women receive only half the inheritance of men, Ramadan has argued that these passages should be reinterpreted given the modern changes in family structure and the fact that many women today raise children alone. Therefore, Ramadan argues, Muslims should "try to keep the justice instead of literally implementing verses, pretending faithfulness to the Koran but in fact creating injustices on the ground." This is a sharp challenge to the Salafists, the significance of which Berman does not recognize. Similarly, Ramadan's call in 2005 for a moratorium on the implementation of hudud penalties -- including the stoning of adulterers -- is mocked relentlessly by Berman as too little, but in fact it posed an intensely controversial challenge to the heart of Salafi political agendas and jurisprudence.
Ultimately, Ramadan disappoints his liberal interlocutors because they are not his most important point of reference. He has made a strategic calculation that embracing the political passions of the Muslim mainstream is the only way for his reformist agenda to gain any sort of credibility or traction with the Muslim audiences that really matter. And although his vision may not be a classically liberal one, it is a fully legitimate guide for how Muslims -- or any persons of faith -- can participate in a liberal and democratic system. As Andrew March, a political theorist and professor at Yale University, has argued, the cultures of political liberalism in the West should be able to accommodate peaceful, law-abiding citizens who are motivated by explicit religious faith. The United States, which boasts its own powerful religious communities and fundamentalist political forces, should of all places be able to understand how this works.
This does not mean that liberals should not have misgivings about Ramadan's project. He defines sharia -- the system of Muslim jurisprudence -- not as the law of the land but as a personal moral code, sustained by the faith of the believer. Why should such a belief be alarming? After all, this is how many people of faith have reconciled themselves to civic states. But in practice, this evangelical project of societal transformation through personal transformation -- changing the world "one soul at a time" -- is more deeply radical than what violent extremists envision. Anyone can seize state power through violence and then impose his will by force. True power lies in the ability to mobilize consent so that people willingly embrace ideas without coercion -- so that they want what you want, not simply do what you want. Nonviolent Islamists excel at this level of soft power and, in doing so, have succeeded in transforming public culture across the Muslim world. Walking the streets of Cairo today, for example, it is hard to believe that only a couple decades ago, few women covered their hair.
LUMPERS AND SPLITTERS
In trying to understand Islamism, two approaches are possible. The first sees Islamism as essentially a single project with multiple variants, in which the similarities are more important than the differences. In this view, the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda represent two points on a common spectrum, divided by tactics rather than by goals. Such an understanding makes it possible -- if not unavoidable -- to see Osama bin Laden lurking in the figure of Ramadan.
The second approach sees consequential distinctions in the ideology and behavior of various Islamist strands. In the years since 9/11, the United States has moved from the former camp to the latter. The United States' experience of cooperating with nationalist Iraqi insurgents against al Qaeda in Iraq has led many U.S. policymakers to favor a strategy that identifies differences among Islamists and uses them to accelerate al Qaeda's marginalization. Many observers in the United States and elsewhere adopted a similar tack after watching the Muslim Brotherhood contest elections and defend democracy in countries such as Egypt, even as the Brotherhood opposed U.S. foreign policy objectives.
Berman proudly takes the first approach, of lumping Islamist groups together. For him, the faces of Islamism range from the wild-eyed assassin of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh to the anonymous bearded radicals who terrorize their communities, and from the "monstrous" Qaradawi to the smooth Ramadan. Yes, Ramadan has criticized bin Laden and condemned terrorism -- but Berman is unmoved, since he sees violence only as a manifestation of the deeper intellectual problem of the Islamist project. Liberals, Berman argues, should not be fooled by the mild rhetoric or democratic inclinations of nonviolent Islamists or think that engaging with them does Muslims any favors. "Muslim liberals take umbrage . . . at well-meaning observers from outside the world of Islam who, in a misplaced effort to sympathize with the oppressed and stigmatized Muslims, agree to regard the heritage of Hassan al-Banna as the authentic and respectable voice of Islam," he writes. He is right about the suspicion of Islamists among many Muslim liberals and secularists. But these groups -- however much Berman and I both might wish otherwise -- represent only a small slice of Muslim societies. By focusing on them, Berman disregards the more important battles that occupy the Muslim mainstream.
The evolution of these struggles can be seen in the experience of Qaradawi, who plays a decisive role in Berman's book. Ramadan's "reverence" for Qaradawi, a preacher and television host linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, serves as Berman's coup de grâce. Qaradawi has achieved infamy for his fatwas in support of Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians. If Ramadan reveres such a "monstrous" figure -- and does not understand him to be monstrous -- then surely Ramadan's worldview must be fundamentally flawed. But Berman renders Qaradawi so crudely that few Muslims would recognize him in the caricature.
In fact, Qaradawi is a pivotal figure who straddles the divides within today's Islamist world. He is a fierce advocate of democratic participation and a critic of al Qaeda, which makes him an icon to mainstream nonviolent Islamists and an object of outrage among Salafi jihadists. He is best known for his doctrine of wasatiyya, or "centrism," which lays out a middle ground between secularism and fundamentalism. He rejects the doctrinal extremism of the Salafists and the violent extremism of al Qaeda -- in a recent book, he dismissed al Qaeda's efforts as a "mad declaration of war upon the world." At the same time, he often takes issue with U.S. foreign policy and is certainly hostile toward Israel, not to mention being a highly successful proselytizer of the Islamist worldview. This potent mixture may be troubling, but it largely defines the mainstream Muslim position. Indeed, one of the keys to Qaradawi's popularity is his ability to anticipate Arab and Muslim views; like Ramadan, Qaradawi is a barometer of Muslim opinion as much as a cause of it.
Berman argues that Ramadan's respect for Qaradawi prevents him from making the breaks with Islamist orthodoxy necessary to becoming a truly reformist figure. But Berman fails to notice that Ramadan has already made such breaks, at some personal cost to himself. Ramadan and Qaradawi have clashed several times in recent years. Ramadan has rejected Qaradawi's suggestion that Muslims in Europe should relocate to Muslim-majority lands; he has also criticized Qaradawi's defense of Palestinian violence against Israel, insisting that Palestinian opposition should take the form of nonviolent civil disobedience.
These arguments demonstrate not only that Ramadan is flexible but also how Qaradawi has changed. Over the last few years, his rulings have become more conservative, literalistic, and orthodox. Arguably, this is because the winds of Islamism have been changing. Salafists are gaining in influence everywhere, driven largely by the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood's model of political participation and the continued flow of Gulf oil money to literalistic institutions and individuals. The purity of Salafism offers simple answers to Muslims in Europe, many of whom are facing profound crises of identity and alienation. Qaradawi senses these changes but has struggled to adapt. This spring, he lost control over his own creation, the popular Islamist Web site Islam Online, when Salafists took over editorial control and forced out a number of staff members sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood. When Qaradawi tried to intervene, he was dismissed from the editorial leadership by the site's owners in Qatar -- a startling fall for one of the pillars of Islamist activism over the last three decades.
Those, such as Berman, who see Islamism as flat and uniform claim that Islamists of all varieties -- despite differences over the use of violence or the value of democratic participation -- ultimately share a commitment to achieving an Islamic state. But this is misleading. There is a vast and important gap between the Salafi vision of enforced social uniformity and the moderate Islamist vision of a democratic state, with civil institutions and the rule of law, populated by devout Muslims. The gap is so great as to render meaningless the notion that all Islamists share a common strategic objective. Ramadan stands on the correct side of this gap, and by extension, he stands on the right side of the most important battle within Islamism today: he is a defender of pragmatism and flexibility, of participation in society, and of Muslims' becoming full citizens within liberal societies.
Ramadan's defense of participation places him opposite the literalists and radicals with whom Berman attempts to link him. The hard core of the Salafi jihadists view all existing Muslim societies as fundamentally, hopelessly corrupt -- part of a jahiliyya, which means "age of ignorance," from which true Muslims must retreat and isolate themselves. Ramadan, by contrast, calls for change from within. Groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood offer clinics, charities, schools, and other services, while pursuing the dawa, or "spiritual outreach." Their approach would be familiar to anyone who has engaged with American evangelicals -- the polite conversation, the pamphlets and other literature, the self-presentation as honest and incorruptible. There is an obvious difference between a woman who is forced to wear a veil for fear of acid being thrown in her face and one who does so to show respect for God. But there are other forms of coercion -- peer pressure, societal norms, and economic need -- that can be difficult to detect from the outside. These are topics for serious study.
But Berman does not even try. He sees only a radical mob of fanatics, not individuals who find meaning in their lives given particular contexts and specific challenges. As Berman sees it, blank-faced cyphers impose a grim conformity on passive communities that are unable to resist (presumably because their will has been weakened by an Ian Buruma essay). It does not occur to him that Islamism might offer meaning to those who are confined to gloomy urban ghettos or that Islamist groups might be the only ones working on the ground to improve certain people's lives. For many Muslims around the world, Islamism may offer a better life in the here and now -- and not just in the hereafter -- than do many of the alternatives.
This point should not be misunderstood. Although the Muslim Brotherhood is clearly distinct from al Qaeda, it is not the uniformly "moderate" organization that its supporters often say it is. The organization's character and goals often vary from community to community, and its rhetoric sometimes betrays a number of worrisome "gray zones," in the words of a 2006 study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Its members generally avoid making clear statements on contentious issues, such as the place of non-Muslims in the Islamic state, the toleration of secular Muslims, or where the authority to interpret Islamic law should reside. And the Muslim Brotherhood's rejection of violence at home does not extend to areas where Muslims live under occupation, such as the Palestinian territories or Iraq. Such positions may not please many Americans, but they do -- like it or not -- represent the mainstream of much of the Muslim world.
Many of the valuable debates that The Flight of the Intellectuals could have sparked are drowned out by Berman's ludicrous efforts to construct an intellectual and organizational genealogy linking Nazi Germany and contemporary Islamism. His insistence on the usefulness of the concept of "Islamic fascism" -- despite the fact that virtually all Muslims consider it a profound insult to their faith and identity -- is one of the surest clues to his indifference to Muslim reality in favor of intellectual gamesmanship.
In a lengthy chapter drawn almost entirely from the recent book Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, by the like-minded historian Jeffrey Herf, Berman highlights what he calls the mutual admiration among Banna; Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem; and Nazi leaders such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels. Arabs had virtually nothing to do with the Holocaust, of course, but Berman attempts to create a trail of implication by devoting long passages to Husseini's connections to the Nazis and Banna's support for Husseini. In the 1930s, Husseini saw Nazi Germany as the most convenient ally in a war against the British mandate and the surging Zionist immigrant community; he then couched this alliance in Islamic terms in an effort to win over mass support. But such history is less titillating to Berman than is the idea that "the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem might have been onto something, and the mufti's case for an Islamic-Nazi alliance stood on reasonably solid theological ground." Berman goes on to cite Mark Cohen, a professor at Princeton University and historian of Jews in the Muslim world, who posits (but ultimately rejects) the idea that "the mufti was engaged in a fundamentally perverse and unnatural effort to twist Islam in a new direction." Berman dances to the brink and then backs away, leaving readers confident of where he hopes they will end up without actually saying where that is.
Berman's cartoonish tale misses far more significant historical developments that shaped today's Islamism. In the 1950s, the repression of the Muslim Brotherhood by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, combined with the rise of Sayyid Qutb, the radical Islamic intellectual imprisoned and later executed by the Nasser regime, created a schism that was pivotal to the evolution of modern Islamism. Whereas Banna contested seats in the legislature and maintained an organized armed wing, much as did other political parties at the time, Qutb's generation had to choose between fleeing Egypt or suffering the torture of its prisons. Banna hoped to work within the architecture of the state -- he was a proto-Ramadan, truly, in this sense -- but doing so was impossible for Qutb. To Qutb, contemporary society was populated by hypocrites and apostates who had substituted the rule of man for the rule of God. The Muslim Brotherhood eventually rejected Qutb's views, and by the 1970s, it had turned to enthusiastic participation in the public realm across the Arab world. Qutb's acolytes, meanwhile, retreated toward violence. Yet Berman simply dismisses this split. In response to the fact that Banna and Qutb never even knew each other, Berman concludes that they "knew" each other in the metaphysical sense. This is indefensible and cause enough to dismiss the entire enterprise.
Berman's invocation of the Nazis is, of course, meant to validate the controversial concept of Islamic fascism. He demands that Ramadan denounce the roles played in World War II by people such as his grandfather and the grand mufti, and he takes Ramadan's dismissal of such demands as evidence of something darker. But Ramadan's exasperation with this line of questioning is easy to understand: the role Husseini played in World War II may be of burning concern to Berman, but it holds little relevance for Ramadan's own thinking or beliefs. It is a pity that the truly important questions posed by nonviolent Islamist movements in liberal societies are lost amid the heat and noise of the polemics.
ACCEPTED AND DISCOVERED TRUTHS
Still, Berman highlights a very real dilemma. Put bluntly, Islamists have shaped the world around them in ways that many liberals in the United States and Europe find distasteful. Even moderate Islamists prioritize religion over all other identities and promote its application in law, society, culture, and politics. Their prosyletizing, social work, party politics, and organization of parallel civil societies have all helped transform societies from below. This frightens and angers secularists, liberals, feminists, non-Muslims, and others who take no comfort in the argument that the political success of the Islamists simply reflects the changing views of the majority. The strongest argument against accepting nonviolent Islamists as part of the legitimate spectrum of debate is that they offer only a short-term solution while making the long-term problem worse. These Islamists may be democrats, but they are not liberals. Their success will increase the prevalence and impact of illiberal views and help shape a world that will be less amenable to U.S. policies and culture.
But this is precisely why Berman's lumping together of different strands of Islamism is so harmful. Ramadan may not be a liberal, but he offers a realistic vision of full participation in public life that counters the rejectionist one posed by the ascendant corps of Salafi extremists. Pragmatists who hope to confront the disturbing trends within the Muslim world do not have the luxury of moral purity.
There are other reasons not to simply shun all Islamists. First, there is the question of democracy and political freedom. In many Arab and Muslim-majority countries, the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamist movements represent the largest and best-organized political opposition. When there are free and fair elections, they tend to win. Their opponents are generally not liberals but authoritarians. The arsenal of repression that these regimes deploy against their Islamist challengers strikes against the democratic and political freedoms that liberals proudly defend. The Muslim Brotherhood may be a force for illiberal values, but its members are found in the prisons of repressive regimes. Defenders of human rights and democratic freedoms cannot overlook those depredations if they wish to remain credible and effective.
Second, nonviolent Islamists are among the most effective rivals of al Qaeda and similar organizations. This is one of the lessons of Iraq, where the rejection by nationalist jihadist factions of the more extreme, globalist cadre of al Qaeda's Iraqi franchise helped turn the tide in favor of the United States. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has helped keep al Qaeda from gaining a foothold in the country. In Gaza, meanwhile, Hamas protects its rule from radical Salafi opponents who do not consider the group religiously conservative enough. Disciplined and politically organized groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood are well positioned to keep Salafi jihadists from moving into mosques. In this sense, moderate Islamic political movements can serve as a firewall against radicalization, capturing the pious with a disciplined and nonviolent organization and fighting off more extremist challengers.
Third, there is hope that these movements will become more progressive. Within groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood there are real struggles going on between reformists and traditionalists. The struggle within the Muslim Brotherhood burst into view a few years ago when, inspired by a political opening, a group of young Brotherhood bloggers pushed for more transparency, more sustained political engagement, increased cooperation with other protest movements across ideological lines, and a less austere approach to cultural issues. The mere fact that these movements can be influenced in positive directions offers a powerful reason to try and do so. To be sure, these currents move in both directions, which suggests the risks of disengagement: in places such as Egypt and Jordan, hard-liners have moved back into the leadership of Islamist movements after sustained campaigns of government repression against them. Political conditions clearly affect ideology: when such groups are allowed to participate, they generally become more moderate, and when they are excluded, they become more radical.
Fourth, there is the matter of the bruising battle within the Muslim world. Secular Muslims, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- the Somali-born writer and former Dutch politician -- are a sideshow to the real struggles taking place between reformers and traditionalists, Muslim Brothers and Salafists, rulers and oppositionists. The real challenge to the integration of Muslims in the West comes from Salafists who deny the legitimacy of democracy itself, who view the society around them as mired in jahiliyya, and who seek only to enforce a rigid, literalistic version of Islam inside whatever insulated enclaves they are able to carve out. The liberals to whom Berman is drawn represent a vanishingly small portion of Muslim-majority societies. They are generally drawn from well-off urban elites that have become ever more detached from their surrounding environments and would not fare well in the democratic elections that the United States claims to want. Meanwhile, granting such prominence to ex-Muslims who support Israel and denounce Islam discredits other reformists in the real terrain where figures such as Ramadan must operate. Supporting them may offer the warm glow of moral purity -- and they may be more fun at parties -- but this should not be confused with having an impact where it counts.
At the end, Berman offers an impassioned defense of Hirsi Ali, whom he portrays as a classic dissident who has been betrayed by the leading lights of the liberal West. He feigns bewilderment at why these liberal authors, to whom he devotes so many pages, might find her problematic. Berman appears unbothered by the frightening march toward a clash of civilizations promoted by al Qaeda and fueled by anti-Islamic culture warriors in the West. Nor is he concerned that expressing extreme anti-Islamic views and embracing only those Muslims who reject Islam might help al Qaeda by antagonizing those hewing to the Muslim mainstream and perhaps convincing them that bin Laden is right after all. Berman portrays himself, Hirsi Ali, and a select group of others as the defenders of moral courage in a world where too many have fallen short. But real moral courage does not come from penning angry polemics without regard for real-world consequences.
The most helpful strategic victory in the struggle against Islamist radicalism would be to undermine the narrative that the West is at war with Islam. There should be no tolerance for Islamist extremists who threaten writers, intimidate women, or support al Qaeda's terrorism. But defending Hirsi Ali from death threats should not necessarily mean embracing her diagnosis of Islam. Berman's culture war would marginalize the pragmatists and empower the extremists. Muslim communities are more likely to reject such extremists when they do not feel that their faith is being attacked as fascist or that they can only be accepted if they embrace Israel and the policy preferences of American conservatives.
The Muslims in the West are not going away. It is therefore imperative to find a way for these communities to become full partners in the security and prosperity offered by Western societies. If democracy has any meaning, it must be able to allow Muslims to peacefully pursue their interests and advance their ideas -- even as the liberals who defend the right of Muslims to do so are also free to oppose them. Ramadan may not present the only path to such an end -- but he does present one. And that is why his liberal proponents in the West, who so infuriate Berman for promoting Ramadan, emerge as more compelling guides to a productive future.
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By Marc Lynch
Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and Director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University.