Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Young Muslim loses equilibrium; tries to kill innocent human beings

UNC Attack Suspect Wanted to Punish Gov't

The Associated Press
Monday, March 6, 2006; 7:19 PM

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- A University of North Carolina graduate accused of running down nine people on campus told an emergency dispatcher he wanted to "punish the government of the United States for their actions around the world," according to a 911 recording released Monday.

Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, a 22-year-old native of Iran, called 911 to surrender Friday a few minutes after a sport utility vehicle sent students scurrying to escape. No one was seriously hurt.

Taheri-azar was later charged with nine counts of attempted murder and nine counts of assault, and his bail was set at $5.5 million.

University Police Chief Derek Poarch said Taheri-azar told investigators he intentionally hit people to "avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world."

At his first appearance Monday in Orange County court in Hillsborough, Taheri-azar told the judge he planned to represent himself and was "thankful for the opportunity to spread the will of Allah." He was assigned a public defender, but ignored the lawyer's advice to stop talking.

"In this case, they're gonna ultimately allow him to represent himself," District Attorney Jim Woodall said after the hearing. "It's clear to me that that's what he truly wants to do."

Taheri-azar spoke politely when he called emergency dispatchers.

"Yes, sir. I just hit several people with a vehicle," Taheri-azar said on the recording. "Right now, I'm standing, you can come arrest me."

Taheri-azar graduated from North Carolina in December after studying psychology and philosophy. Investigators believe he has spent most of his life in the United States, Poarch has said.

On campus, UNC students held what they called an "anti-terrorism" rally on Monday.

"We don't want terrorism here, and we're not gonna stand for that where we live and where we go to school," said Kris Wampler, a member of the College Republicans, which helped organize the rally.

About 50 students attended, including a group of Muslim students who debated with organizers and said Taheri-azar had not been linked to any terrorist group.

"When you think of terms of a global context, this was an isolated incident," said Khurram Bilal Tariq, a 22-year-old junior.

The Muslim Students Association, which criticized the university's student newspaper last month for publishing a cartoon that depicted the Prophet Muhammad, has said Taheri-azar was not a member of the group and denounced his alleged actions.

Stephen Mann, an 18-year-old freshman, said he wasn't singling out Islam. He said a driver of any religion who did what Taheri-azar is accused of should be called a terrorist.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

What's more offensive: derogatory cartoons of the Prophet or public incitation to murder and terrorism?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Slavery in the Muslim world?

Human Trafficking Still Problem in Kuwait

Associated Press Writer

January 1, 2006, 3:04 PM EST

KUWAIT CITY -- Annu, an Asian house maid, says she worked 19-hour days for a year and was paid nothing.

Her eyes well up with tears as she slaps her hand, demonstrating what her employers did when she reached out for food when it was not lunchtime -- the only meal they gave her. When she could no longer stand the treatment, Annu fled for help to the embassy of her homeland.

The gaunt 38-year-old, her black hair gathered at the back of her head in a plastic clip, said she did not want to leave this tiny oil-rich country and hoped to find a new employer. Her three children back home need the money.

An average of 15 maids seek refuge at the embassy everyday, said a diplomat there, who spoke with The Associated Press on condition that he and his nation not be identified for fear of angering Kuwait.

About 166 maids currently were living in the embassy awaiting the outcome of mediation with their employers, compensation for rape or air tickets home.

Despite the terrible conditions under which many Asians work and live, large numbers want to stay in Kuwait because their chances of finding work that pays a decent wage at home are virtually nil.

In June, the U.S. State Department named its major ally Kuwait -- estimated population 2.7 million -- as one of the countries doing too little to combat human trafficking. The report cited abuse of domestic workers and laborers, and the use of boys from South Asia and Africa as jockeys in camel races.

The Bush administration then waived the threat of financial or cultural sanctions on all countries on the list but Myanmar, Cuba and North Korea. No explanation was given when the decision was announced in September.

The American ambassador, Richard LeBaron, told reporters last month that Kuwait has "good intentions and plans" for change but "concrete actions are what will make the difference in the re-evaluation of Kuwait's practices."

Beyond the approximately 450,000 domestic servants, tens of thousands of laborers from the Indian subcontinent herd sheep in the desert; collect garbage; clean streets, hospitals and government offices; and work in agriculture for salaries as low as $68 a month.

Demonstrations by laborers claiming they are not paid for months at a time are common. In April, more than 700 Bangladeshi workers ransacked their country's embassy in frustration. Newspaper columnists have called their plight "slave trade."

Lawmaker Ali al-Rashed, who heads the human rights committee in Kuwait's Parliament, said servant abuse is an "exception," and some maids "make up" stories of abuse to get out of their contracts.

However, he conceded the government must act more quickly to guarantee prompt payment of laborers and to punish companies that "harm Kuwait's reputation" by not meeting their obligations. Some cleaning workers have told The Associated Press they depend on charities for food.

Kuwait has imposed a ban on boys riding camels in races, with robots having been introduced to take their places.

The government has a labor claims department but not all foreign laborers know about it, speak enough Arabic to communicate their grievances or can afford the transportation and time off from work to use it.

In April 2004, the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration proposed establishing a migrants' resource center that would provide advice and legal services for foreign workers who face problems and do not know where to find help.

But Mohammed al-Nassery, the IOM's chief of mission in Kuwait, said he has not been able to find a way to gain access to maids at their workplaces in a way that would not "compromise" the privacy or integrity of the Kuwaiti household.

He said Muslim clerics should preach humane treatment of foreign laborers, and human rights should be included in school books, adding that changing behavior will take generations.

At the root of the grievances is the sponsorship system, which allows a Kuwaiti individual to employ house help, dismiss them or send them back home at whim. Although it is illegal, most hold the passports of these workers.

The union that represents the 500 companies that recruit domestic workers from Asian nations is writing new contracts to be signed by maids, the sponsor and the recruitment agency. They are said to limit working hours to eight per day, insure overtime payments and a day off.

The Asian diplomat, however, said the contracts would be pointless if maids, for example, are kept in the homes of their employers and off limits to those who could help them.

Many Kuwaitis reject outside pressure for change, even from Washington, the leading force in the 1991 Gulf War, which ended a seven-month Iraqi occupation of this country.

A cartoon published in Al-Watan daily newspaper in November showed a citizen telling what appeared to be a U.S. ambassador: "I hope that you don't think we have become your slaves because you liberated us, Mr. Ambassador."

When the diplomat told him they were using boys to ride camels in races and not giving Asian workers their dues, the man replied: "Ooh, I thought you were talking about something important."