Current Affairs

Jawad’s Friday Review – 14 June 2013

This week has seen the major US/UK government surveillance scandal ‘PRISM’ worsen, as EDL profile broadens but they splutter in support, and the US finally declares Syrian use of Chemical Weapons. The weather from Manchester is cloudy and breezy, and the chances are good that today I will be able to make Jummah.

PRISM

Last week Verizon was asked to hand over data about millions of US customers in one of the biggest data requests in history. This led to some taking a closer look at the US government monitoring operations in place and led to a whistleblower “Keith Snowden” coming forward to speak about an NSA program called PRISM. One of the slides revealed from an internal NSA presentation seem to show that the US government pulls data directly from several key internet firms, including Google, Microsoft, etc. Since then there has been vociferous denial of the program, combined with defences of the program by government agencies, and even a summons in this country of staff from GCHQ (UK surveillance operations and intel) to Parliament to answer questions relating to the PRISM program. It is well established that British and US counterparts share information.

Questions remain:

  • Is such collection of data legal?
  • To what extent is personal information shared?
  • In what context, if any, can it legally be used?
  • Will it ever form evidence in a conviction?
  • What is the nature of the information?
  • Is it possible for a private citizen to know what data the government is collecting?
  • How is the information sorted and analysed?
  • What is the rate of ‘false positives’ – i.e falsely accused innocent people?
  • Where is this information stored?
  • Is the information free from tampering?
  • Is the information used to blacklist groups of people – muslims, foreigners, etc?
  • Is the information used to track Dawah participants and organizers?
  • Is it ever, or has it ever, been used to track and prevent non-muslim groups from political activity?
  • How to we ensure our privacy and freedom?

Action Points:

  • Get Google Alerts on PRISM
  • Buy a disposable SIM Card/phone for private calls. (Pay by cash, obviously.)
  • Encrypt your emails. (Free, Easy)
  • Browse the Web Securely (Free, Easy)
  • Clean all Malware/Spyware/Adware from your system. (Free, Easy)
  • Install AdBlock Plus (Free, Easy)
  • Think CAREFULLY about the phone numbers you call, and those who call you. Stay safe.

SYRIA

Image and Intro Courtesy Guardian:

Bashar al-Assad

Syrian president Bashir al-Assad: the US said it believed ‘the Assad regime maintains control of these weapons’. Photograph: AP

The US has said it will provide military support to the Syrian rebels after confirming it believes there is concrete evidence of nerve gas attacks by government forces against rebel groups.

The assessment that limited attacks have taken place, based on CIA tests on blood, urine and hair samples from dead or wounded rebel fighters, is the first time Washington has supported claims made by British and French intelligence services in recent weeks. Assad has repeatedly denied using any chemical weapons in the bitter civil war.

“Following a deliberative review our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year,” said a White House statement.

“Our intelligence community has high confidence in that assessment given multiple, independent streams of information. The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete. ”

The White House believes its assessment means Syria has crossed the so-called “red line” that President Barack Obama established early in the conflict as a test for further western intervention to support the rebels.                                                               –Guardian 14th June 2013

The US will now actively involve itself in the arming of rebels against the government. This is against the backdrop of figures released today demonstrating at least 5000 Syrians have been killed per day since the conflict escalated 18 months ago. The staggering death-toll only underscores the disturbing images and videos of the country being torn apart daily broadcast across the world and have highlighted the urgency of the situation – ironically for many months now.

Questions:

  • What type of arms will be given to the rebels, do these include heavy weapons, and perhaps vehicles?
  • Will training and medical supplies also be provided?
  • Will the US exclude some rebels from the arming process?
  • What conditions, if any will be placed on the granting of arms, and their use?
  • Will these arms be supplemented with defensive equipment to actually protect against chemical or biological weaponry?
  • How quickly will arms be provided?
  • What is stop deserters or other elements from selling the arms to criminals?
  • How will this affect the religious balance within Syria?
  • How will this influence external support for Muslims in the country?
  • With more brutal imagery likely to follow from Syria – could this polarize peoples’ view of Islam and impede Dawah efforts?

Action Points:

  • Google for the list of rebel organisations.
  • Review a timeline of the conflict for better understanding.
  • Take a look at the history of Assad’s family, and the formation of the Syrian State last century.
  • Google a warmap of Syria.
  • How would you answer questions relating to this in a debate on Islam?
  • Who are the external parties supporting? Russia, China?
  • Review the list of defections from Syria.
  • Consider if there is an Islamic way out of the conflict – if so how?

THE EDL ARE BACK

Image and Intro Courtesy of BBC.

Tommy Robinson

EDL leader Tommy Robinson was interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Photograph: Paul Davey/Demotix/Corbis

The BBC has been accused of giving an uncritical platform to the leader of the English Defence League, who was interviewed on the Radio 4 Today programme on Tuesday morning.

The interview was branded “ludicrous” by critics on Twitter who questioned why Tommy Robinson, who is not an elected representative, was invited on the flagship programme at all.

He admitted that the organisation has “completely questionable” tactics and said “the non-Muslim working class don’t have a voice” and warned “it’s not going to end pretty”.

He also used the platform to deny his group was behind a blaze at an Islamic centre, which was daubed with the letters EDL, in London’s Muswell Hill last week.

He told the programme: “If something was set on fire and someone wrote ‘David Cameron’ on the side of it, does it mean he did it?”

Robinson told presenter Sarah Montague he wanted “all aspects of sharia outlawed” in the UK and explained that the idea that EDL initials were written on a mosque by his members “seems ridiculous”. –BBC

It seems Lennon’s stint in prison recently hasn’t mellowed the EDL leader at all, and under his alias ‘Tommy Robinson’ he was invited onto the flagship BBC for an interview early this week. Given recent difficulties gathering support a few minutes of prime time in the nations ear early in the morning must have seemed like a gift, and he certainly seems to have taken full advantage to declare his complete opposition to Islam, Muslims, Dawah, and of course his personal fear ‘Sharia’. We’ll be keeping an eye on Lennon, he was meant to debate with MDI just before he got sent to prison.

Jawad Yaqub is the newest member of MDI’s speakers team.

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