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Friday, June 05, 2009

Michael's Afternoon 7 - 5 June

With every speech he gives, President Obama goes further and further in diminishing Christianity in America while inflating Muslims here and around the world. For Americans this appears to be at best an incredibly bad choice of rhetoric or at worst the manifestation of a prejudice hidden in Obama, finally making its way out. To Muslims though, it has a much deeper meaning tied to the concept of “Dhimmi,” the subjugation of other religions to Islam. It started in a speech he gave in 2007 when he stated, “Whatever we once were, we’re no longer a Christian nation.” At that same speech he criticized Christian leaders, claiming they have used their religion for political purposes. He repeated again that “America is not a Christian nation” a few weeks later.  Little was made of it during the Presidential campaign because the media protected Obama from controversy at all costs. The only such speech he made was in Turkey.  At a press conference before his speech, Obama said, “[O]ne of the great strengths of the United States is — although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation…” He went on to say that America is also not a Muslim or Jewish nation, but no one has ever assumed that.  His point therefore was to once again make sure the world knew he doesn’t consider America, comprised of 78.5% Christians, a “Christian nation.” The significance of Obama’s attempts to raise the Muslim status into something bigger than it is, while diminishing Christianity, is tied to the concept of what in the Muslim world is termed “Dhimmi.” “Dhimmi” is a status historically given to Christians and Jews in Muslim countries.  It is a lesser legal status with lesser rights. Political rights are curtailed. The practice of Christianity and Judaism is allowed only by accepting the subjugation of those religions to Islam, and Christians and Jews pay a tax to the Muslims.  The entire concept revolves around the idea of accepting that Christians and Jews are lesser people, while Muslims are greater people. Obama has made no bones about his wanting to get on the good side of Muslim nations.  He clearly has no reservations about diminishing Christians, consistent with Muslim “Dhimmi” tradition, to do so.

It's the Year of Creativity and Innovation in the European Union, even as a recession rains on the decision-making process of companies regarding new investments. But all is not gloomy. Europe still offers for many companies an interesting market. With 27 countries, more than 700 million inhabitants and a total GDP of more than US$13 trillion, the European Union is still the largest unified market in the world. After the U.S. it is the second most R&D intensive economy and it is the number one destination for direct investments abroad of American and Asian investors. Nevertheless, the worldwide economic downturn has clear impacts on economic growth (down), unemployment (up) and new investments (down) in Europe. The impact on various sectors of industry differs however. The capital goods sector and the automotive industry have difficult times, while high-tech companies and the IT sector also face growing challenges. But industry verticals like healthcare,
(renewable) energies and food & beverages are less adversely affected, and are still growing in many European regions.

The 27 countries in the European Union will elect the 736 members of the European Parliament this week. Here are some facts about the election and the assembly. Who votes and when? More than 375 million people are eligible to vote in the 27 European Union member states. Voting takes place over four days, starting in Britain and the Netherlands on June 4. Ireland votes on June 5, and Latvia, Cyprus, Malta and Slovakia vote on June 6. Two countries vote over two days – the Czech Republic on June 5-6 and Italy on June 6-7. Voting takes place on June 7 in the rest of the member states – Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Voting is by secret ballot. Results cannot be released by any country until voting ends in all member states. Since the last election in 2004, Romania and Bulgaria have joined the EU. Who will be elected? What is the European Parliament? What does the European Parliament do? How will the parliament be affected by the Lisbon Treaty?

Turkey on Friday slammed European parties campaigning against its EU membership bid in European Parliament elections, accusing them of "fanning xenophobia." Without giving names, the foreign ministry said Ankara was "following with regret the negative statements and rhetoric about Turkey's European Union membership process in some countries." The statement denounced "meaningless formulae" to offer Ankara alternatives to full EU membership such as privileged partnership or broader cooperation between the 27-member bloc and Mediterranean countries. The leaders of EU heavyweights France and Germany have been particularly vocal in their opposition to Turkey's accession. Far-right parties in other member countries have also campaigned against the mainly Muslim country's membership aspirations as part of a broader agenda against the "Islamisation" of Europe. In the Dutch vote, the far-right Party for Freedom -- whose leader Geert Wilders has gained international notoriety with attacks on Islam -- was the big winner, coming second in its first-ever campaign. 

Lebanon holds parliamentary elections on June 7, 2009. The main question at stake is whether the country's Hezbollah-led "March 8" coalition will defeat its Western-backed "March 14" coalition. All 128 seats in Lebanon's National Assembly (Majlis al-Nuwab), which functions as the country's parliament, will be contested in the June 2009 elections. Lebanon's September 2008 election law allocates these seats among twenty-six electoral districts. Each district is mandated to have a fixed number of representatives from Lebanon's eighteen different religious sects. For example, the Tripoli district is allotted a total of eight seats, five of which are to be filled by Sunni Muslims, one by an Alawite Muslim, one by a Maronite Christian, and one by a Greek Orthodox Christian. These elections are the fifth since the end of the Lebanese Civil War in 1989. The country's 1990 constitution, scripted in accordance with the October 1989 Taif Accords, stipulates that representation in the Lebanese National Assembly should be divided equally between Christians and Muslims, and then further subdivided by confessional branches. The country's leadership positions are also divvied up according to religious faith: since 1943, the Lebanese president, elected by the parliament, has been required to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister has been a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of the parliament has been a Shiite Muslim.

Serbian police said they are investigating the desecration of 724 graves of the Serbian Orthodox and Jewish graveyards in the northern Vojvodina region. Vandals desecrated the Orthodox cemetery at the village of Stapari, close to Sombor, on the night from Sunday to Monday when 713 tombstones were broken or damaged. Police officers believe the graves were vandalized by a large group of people because it should take time to damage 713 tombstones, some of which weighed up to 1,100 pounds. Sunday evening at Subotica, 20 miles northeast of Sombor, vandals desecrated 11 graves at the Jewish cemetery. The graves, dating to the 19th century, had inscriptions in Hebrew.

The Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church should end the spirit of rivalry between them and concentrate of jointly facing modern challenges, said Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate's external church relations department. Both churches have long clashed over territory. At a meeting on Friday with Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, the head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, Archbishop Hilarion said he was determined to continue the course of his predecessor on the position of external church relations department head, currently Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, to look for ways toward improving mutual understanding and relations with the Roman Catholic Church in Russia. In this connection, Archbishop Hilarion said, "any spirit of rivalry should be left in the past." Archbishop Pezzi vowed to look for new forms of interaction that would meet important goals of Christian testimony and suggested that the two churches discuss the possibility of arranging joint Orthodox-Catholic events to this end.