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World water crisis must be top UN priority: report

WASHINGTON: A rapidly worsening water shortage threatens to destabilize the planet and should be a top priority for the UN Security Council and world leaders, a panel of experts said in a report.

The world’s diminishing water supply carries serious security, development and social risks, and could adversely affect global health, energy stores and food supplies, said the report titled “The Global Water Crisis: Addressing an Urgent Security Issue,” published Monday.

The study was released by the InterAction Council (IAC), a group of 40 prominent former government leaders and heads of state, along with the United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health, and Canada’s Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation.

“As some of these nations are already politically unstable, such crises may have regional repercussions that extend well beyond their political boundaries,” said Norway’s former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, a member of the group.

The Norwegian leader underscored that the danger is particularly acute in sub-Saharan Africa, western Asia and North Africa, where critical water shortages already exist.

She added that water insecurity could wreak havoc “even in politically stable regions.”

Canada’s former prime minister Jean Chretien meanwhile said it was impossible to overstate the magnitude of the crisis.

“The future political impact of water scarcity may be devastating,” he told reporters in a telephone press conference.

The report found that water demand in the world’s two most populous countries, India and China, will exceed supplies in less than two decades.

Experts said that some 3,800 cubic kilometers of fresh water are extracted from aquatic ecosystems around the world each year, largely as a result of global warming.

Population growth meanwhile has worsened the strain on water resources.

With about one billion more mouths to feed worldwide by 2025, global agriculture alone will require another 1,000 cubic kilometers (one trillion cubic meters) of water per year.

“Using water the way we have in the past simply will not sustain humanity in future,” Chretien said.

“The IAC is calling on the United Nations Security Council to recognize water as one of the top security concerns facing the global community,” he said.

“Starting to manage water resources more effectively and efficiently now will enable humanity to better respond to today’s problems and to the surprises and troubles we can expect in a warming world.”

The report is being released as foreign ministers of several countries prepare for a scheduled special discussion of the topic later this month on the margins of the UN General Assembly.

UN-Water, a coordinating body for water-related efforts by all UN groups, also will told a meeting of experts in New York on September 25 to discuss ways to tackle the problem.

Islam religion of peace but hijacked by extremists: British PM

New York: British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday termed Islam as a peaceful religion but said that some extremists have hijacked it.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, the prime minister said that the democracy and Islam can run together.

Further supporting the Palestinian cause, PM Cameron said, “We support their right to have a state and a home but wants Hamas to renounce violence.”

David Cameron launched his strongest attack on the United Nations over its inaction on Syria, declaring that the blood of young children is a “terrible stain” on its reputation.

The prime minister said: “The blood of these young children is a terrible stain on the reputation of this United Nations. And in particular, a stain on those who have failed to stand up to these atrocities and in some cases aided and abetted Assad’s reign of terror.

“If the United Nations charter is to have any value in the 21st century we must now join together to support a rapid political transition. And at the same time no one of conscience can turn a deaf ear to the voices of suffering.”

He said people who invested great hope in the Arab spring were also wrong to give up even in light of the bloodshed in Syria and the political uncertainty after the election of Islamist leaders in countries such as Egypt. Libya showed the mixed picture, the prime minister said, as he condemned the murder of the US ambassador Chris Stephens in a “despicable act of terrorism” while hailing elections to a new congress.

The prime minister said: “One year on, some believe that the Arab spring is in danger of becoming an Arab winter. They point to the riots on the streets, Syria’s descent into a bloody civil war, the frustration at the lack of economic progress and the emergence of newly elected Islamist-led governments across the region.

“But they are in danger of drawing the wrong conclusion. Today is not the time to turn back, but to keep the faith and redouble our support for open societies, and for people’s demands for a job and a voice.”

In his speech the prime minster announced that Britain was to provide £3m for a Unicef fund to help 500,000 refugees in Syria, more than half of whom are children, as winter approaches.

The Speech Obama Should Give about ‘Innocence of Muslims’

A professor of the politics and culture of the Middle East argues that the current violent furor linked to a blasphemous YouTube clip offers a unique chance to deliver a telling message about freedom of speech.
September 18, 2012 • By Nivien Saleh • 4 Comments and 12 Reactions
The current turmoil in the Muslim world that has unfolded over the YouTube video clip Innocence of Muslims offers the U.S. what educators call a “teachable moment:” an opportunity provided by circumstance to explain an idea that the audience might otherwise find abstract and irrelevant.
The idea is freedom of expression.
Several months ago, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a California producer posing as Israeli citizen Sam Bacile, produced, then posted on YouTube, a movie trailer meant to offend Muslims. Very likely, additional goals were to elicit violent reactions in the Middle East, portray President Obama as weak and force him into a confrontation with Islamists.
The trailer, which columnists have described as wooden, stilted, and cheap, goes out of its way to hit the nerves of Muslims. It calls Muhammad a bastard, depicts him as crawling around the legs of his wife Khadija and performing cunnilingus on her.
This clip violates Islam’s rule of not creating images – even complimentary ones – of the prophet. But more importantly, it portrays Muhammad as a fool, guided not by divine inspiration but the guile of a sexually manipulative wife. In the patriarchal societies of the Middle East, which view men as the rational protectors of irrational women, females as constant sources of seduction, and talk of sexuality as a taboo, this scene alone is highly offensive.
Analysts suggest that Libyan terrorist groups planned attacks against U.S. diplomats long in advance and simply used the Benghazi demonstrations to launch them. In other locations, commentators say, food insecurity created a fertile environment of anxiety and resentment, which radical Islamist agitators, in railing against Innocence of Muslims, have used to shore up their own political status. These explanations may be true; but they alone do not account for the personal outrage that has shaken U.S. outposts across the Muslim world. Citizens of Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Algeria, Tunisia, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and even Indonesia are clearly upset. Why, they ask, do Americans insult God? When will the guilty be punished? When will the United States apologize?
The second question is easy to answer. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who in 2010 pled no contest to charges of bank fraud, will likely be penalized for accessing the Internet without permission from his probation officer and thus violating the terms of his probation. But the United States, while it may hold its nose when discussing the film, will not apologize for allowing Innocence of Muslims to be posted.
Without coming across as defensive, President Obama should take advantage of the fact that Muslims across the world are waiting for a statement. Rather than letting the crisis blow over, he ought to use the moment to explain the Constitution’s First Amendment and freedom of speech, a principle unfamiliar to societies of the Middle East and Southern Asia but at the heart of democracy.
In a public speech reminiscent of his Cairo address of June 2009, he might pay tribute to Ambassador Chris Stevens, a diplomat who supported the liberation of Libya, and three other casualties of the Benghazi attack, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods.
Then he might reiterate what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said before, namely that both he and his leadership team find this video repulsive and offensive. He might add that the clip reflects the views of a very small segment of society. Americans – especially those who have never met a Muslim – may be uneasy with a faith that is unfamiliar to them. But 95 percent believe that the Qur’an ought to be treated with respect. Similarly, the overwhelming majority of citizens of the Muslim world respect diplomats’ right to life and safety.
Next, the president might explain why he will not prohibit the video: One of the fundamental rights that people on American soil have had for over 200 years – especially after the end of slavery – is freedom of speech, a freedom that can only be restricted or sanctioned under the narrowest of circumstances. Freedom of speech is the basis of democracy. It requires that even offensive language be protected, for only expansive protections will shield citizens from a government intent on eroding their privileges.
With the Arab Spring, citizens of Muslim societies have expressed their desire for a greater say in the affairs of their governments, for more democracy. But democracy is not available for free. It depends on participation and debate, and honest debate is only possible if the participants can express their views openly, without fear of ending up in jail. The best way to show all participants that they are safe in airing their views is to protect the speech even of those whom the majority considers outrageous. That is why in a democratic society no president can deprive citizens of their constitutional entitlement to expression, even if he wants to. Listening to offensive speech is the price citizens pay for democracy, and most do so willingly.
Those citizens who feel offended are, of course, entitled to speak back to the offender, even engage in nonviolent protests. The limits are reached when public or private property is destroyed, foreign embassies are stormed, people are harmed or killed.
Lastly, President Obama might state that Ambassador Chris Stevens stood for these very principles when he became a foreign service officer, and when he later urged the U.S. government to support the liberation of Libya.
President Obama has shown on numerous occasions that he is a talented orator with a great sense for cultural nuance. Now is the time to take advantage of this gift and to speak without appearing either meek to his American audience or condescending to his interlocutors overseas.
Many people in the Middle East and Southern Asia know, and therefore expect, strict penalties for insulting God, his divine revelations, or his prophets. In Kuwait, a 26-year old was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for using Twitter to insult the prophet as well as the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. In Saudi Arabia, judges sentenced an Australian to 500 lashes and a year in jail for engaging in blasphemy. This May, Pakistan suspended Twitter because of material the government deemed blasphemous. In Egypt, where a constitutional assembly is drawing up a new constitution, the framers are about to constitutionally criminalize blasphemy – a first in the nation’s modern history. We should not be surprised that residents of these societies demand the very penalties for the makers of Innocence of Muslims to which they are being treated.
Citizens of these nations do not appreciate how valuable freedom of speech is in protecting them from the very dictatorships Tunisians, Libyans, Egyptians, and Syrians have struggled so hard to overcome. But right now, they want to hear from the United States. If President Obama keeps his silence, this moment will become a memory of insult and murder. In fact, the seeds for this may already be germinating: In Egypt, an Islamist member of the Shura Council – part of the country’s legislature – announced that a group is forming that consists of young people from various Islamist persuasions. Its aim is “to defend the Prophet by producing documentaries about the history of Christianity and Judaism.” In other words, some of Egypt’s young Islamists believe that tit-for-tat, insult for insult, is the appropriate answer to Innocence of Muslims.
If, on the other hand, Obama speaks to the video and its consequences, explaining that listening to obscenity once in a while is the price that democrats are willing to pay for their ability to participate in the political process, he may be able to heal some of the injury to the American psyche from the killing of U.S. personnel. He also might succeed in convincing many of the 1.6 billion people in the Muslim world that even though the United States does not penalize offensive speech, it understands the injury that it can cause.
And in the process, he just might open a few minds to a truly revolutionary idea.
More like this: Culture
Tags: Free Speech, Islam, Libya
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About Nivien Saleh
Nivien Saleh is the author of Third World Citizens and the Information Technology Revolution and spent the summers of 2011 and 2012 in Egypt, researching the country’s post-revolutionary politics..She teaches the politics and culture of the Middle East at the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Pakistan bans YouTube after it refuses to block movie

ISLAMABAD: Video-sharing website YouTube was blocked across Pakistan on Monday flowing orders by Prime Minister Raja
Pervez Ashraf.

Taking cognisance of the blasphemous film uploaded on YouTube, the PM issued strict instructions to the Ministry of Information Technology to block access to YouTube throughout the country with immediate effect.

The directions were given after YouTube refused to heed to the advice of the Pakistan government to remove the blasphemous film from the website. The PM said blasphemous material would not be tolerated and the services of YouTube would remain suspended until removal of the blasphemous material.

Earlier, the Supreme Court was informed that YouTube management had rejected the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) request to remove blasphemous video clips about the Holy Prophet (PBUH) by saying that it does not have any such agreement with the government of Pakistan. In view of the court’s order, the PTA director general told the three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, that it had written a letter to YouTube requesting the removal of such clips, but the video-sharing website replied it did not have any such agreement with the government of Pakistan. He said almost 100 new clips of the anti-Islam film were uploaded on YouTube every day.

The DG also told the bench that the authority had been vigorously monitoring and blocking the anti-Islam video from the World Wide Web. He also furnished a list of 753 anti-Islam websites, which were blocked on the Internet by the PTA, adding that out of these, over 650 URLs had been banned on YouTube.

Earlier, the court took notice over the application, filed by Akram Sheikh and Taufiq Asif drawing the court’s attention towards the anti-Islam film made in the US. They said in Pakistan, this film, which contains blasphemous material, was still available on the video-sharing website, therefore, the PTA was under legal obligation to control such content. They requested the bench to issue direction to the PTA to block the film on YouTube. The court directed the PTA chairman to immediately block the offensive material on YouTube and other websites.

Meanwhile, hearing another case against obscenity on the media, the court directed PEMRA to lay down commonly accepted standards of decency, keeping in view Article 37(g) of the constitution and other relevant laws, and take measures to control obscenity within two weeks. The PTA chairman was ordered to submit a report to the court registrar.

A three-judge bench issued the directions after proceeding on a constitutional petition moved by Justice (r) Wajihuddin and Qazi Hussain Ahmed over alleged obscenity on television. Hearing of the case was adjourned for three weeks.

Banning YouTube

Banning YouTube, which no other Muslim country has done except Afghanistan and Bangladesh, appears more of a publicity stunt by a beleaguered PPP-led Pakistani government.

The real test for President Zardari, who has many good friends in the United States, would have been to ask the US government to control and restrain American hatemongers, who have continued a crude campaign of deliberate insults and humiliation against Islam for several years now. Certainly his confidante Husain Haqqani could have taken up the issue in the US.

YouTube has more pro-Islam and pro-Pakistan content than hate material. The YouTube management did not strike down the anti-Islam American film because the site allows many other videos spoofing Prophets Jesus and Moses [Issa and Musa, peace be upon them] and ridiculing other religions.

You can find a huge reservoir of pro-Islam videos on YouTube. That’s their position. It is also one of the few influential outlets where pro-Pakistan material is available with abundance. Many Muslim individuals and groups are producing intelligent videos to counter the anti-Islam American hate campaign. A Saudi

teenager produced and uploaded a beautiful video in English explaining to non-Muslims the endearing aspects of Prophet Mohammad’s personality. But you can’t upload such videos to the site if you ban the site itself. Banning the links would have been a wiser course.

In short, the PPP-led government had no guts to ask the US government to control anti-Islam American hatemongers and instead decided to give our people, who are genuinely hurt because of the film, the YouTube ban lollypop.

Having said this, I make no apologies in emphasising that #MuslimRage [the hashtag created by Newsweek on Twitter] is real, genuine and legitimate. No one likes violence, and it is sad it took senseless violence, including the unfortunate murder of an American ambassador in Libya, for the US government to understand that it cannot act as a silent spectator while a few American hatemongers hijack Washington’s relations with the Muslim world.

Secretary Clinton is right when she says her government is restrained by American laws that allow criticism of religions. But that is not the whole truth. American law, for example, does not outlaw Holocaust deniers.

But US authorities found other legal ways over the years – short of a constitutional amendment – to contain and limit the actions of hatemongers advocating anti-Semitism or denying the Holocaust. Washington was late – too late – but it finally did the right thing by bringing in the producer of the despicable film for questioning.

The said producer had misled his film’s cast into making a hate film and is also wanted for financial fraud in separate cases. There are many legal ways to contain such hatemongers.

The self-styled American hate preacher Pastor Terry Jones sparked riots in Afghanistan last year after his Quran-burning stunt. That anger lingered on until early this year when similar riots erupted against US soldiers and pushed even American-trained Afghan soldiers to kill their allies.

That same lingering anger has now led to a major foreign policy debacle for the United States in a crucial part of the world. This has happened because anti-Islam hate acts originating in the US are no longer isolated incidents but an organised campaign that cannot be ignored.

We should also probe the timing of this latest incident. Al-Qaeda is not the only beneficiary of these spontaneous and heartfelt Muslim protests. The US military and the CIA have huge stakes overseas and this controversy helps both argue in favour of continued American involvement in failed wars, and increased budgetary allocations. There is precedent for US military teaching anti-Islam material to soldiers and whipping up anti-Islam hate.

Last year, the US defeated a Pakistan-led OIC initiative at UN Human Rights Council to ban defamation of religions. In private meetings, American diplomats promised their Pakistani counterparts that the US government would take steps to control anti-Islam hatred.

Washington could have spared itself this mess had it done so. But it is not late. Don’t let your hatemongers – and not just ours – hijack your country and ours into a permanent conflict.


Egypt Issues Arrest Warrant For Americans Behind Muhammad Film

Egypt’s general prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant for eight Americans in relation to the anti-Muslim film that has sparked worldwide protests.

While it’s not entirely clear who made the The Innocence of Muslims, a Coptic Christian from California named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula has admitted having a role in the film’s making.

Still, reports the BBC, Egypt has issued an arrest warrant against Nakoula, six other American-based Coptic Christians and the Quran-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones, who helped publicize the film.

The BBC reports that Egypt accuses them of “insulting the Islamic religion, insulting the Prophet and inciting sectarian strife.”

“It said international police agency Interpol would be notified of the warrants,” the BBC reports. “A request will also be filed with U.S. judicial authorities.”

According to the AP, the charges could be punishable by the death penalty. And, of course, the AP adds, the seven Americans will likely never be extradited so it’s likely they will be tried in absentia.

The AP spoke to the ultraconservative Salafi lawyer Mamdouh Ismail, who said the move might help quell public anger.

“Now these are legal measures instead of angry reactions, whose consequences are undetermined,” he told the AP. “This would also set a deterrent for them and anyone else who may fall into this [offense].”

It’s unclear how Egypt connected the six other Americans to the film.

As Mark reported, Nakoula and his family fled their Cerritos, Calif. home.

Update at 2:24 p.m. ET. Response From Jones:

Terry Jones just emailed a statement to reporters in which he says that the arrest warrants just show that Islam is a religion of “intolerance.”

The statement goes on:

“It is time that we join together in the west and give a very clear signal that we stand against terrorism, against intimidation, against fear, against every form of violation of human rights, civil rights, violations against women and children of which Islam is the prime example. We must protect freedom of speech. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are the very cornerstone of a free society. As we began to limit that, or lose that, we will lose the ability to govern ourselves.”