1. just—maps:

    Map of Abrahamic religions in the world compared to non-abrahamic. [668x313]



  3. Iraqi forces say their morale has been boosted after the town of Dhuliya was wrestled back from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant by local Sunni tribesman.

    The tribesmen accused ISISL fighters of using chemical weapons against them.

    Al Jazeera’s John Hendren reports from Baghdad.


  4. The Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, has killed one of the Lebanese soldiers it had been holding in captivity, according to Lebanese security sources and a Twitter statement.

    The killing of the soldier, if confirmed, will be the first to have been carried out by the Nusra Front, which along with ISIL is holding over a dozen more Lebanese soldiers captive.

    The Twitter statement on an account affiliated with Nusra Front said on Friday that the soldier had become “the first victim of the intransigence of the Lebanese army which has become a plaything in the hands of the Iranian party”, referring to Hezbollah.

    However, the father of the soldier said on local Lebanese TV and radio that the news of his son’s death was only a rumour. “I have not spoken with the abductors, only with the mediators. The news of his death till now is untrue,” he said.

    Sunni opposition fighters and other rebels in Syria regularly accuse the Lebanese army of working with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia armed group which has sent fighters to help the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    Two Lebanese soldiers were also killed by a roadside bomb on Friday near the border town of Arsal, security sources said, the first such attack since the fighters from Syria staged an incursion there last month in the worst spillover to date of the Syrian civil war into Lebanon.

    The fighters, including armed men affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, seized a number of Lebanese soldiers during that incursion.

    ISIL fighters have beheaded two of those soldiers since then.

    Sunni fighters have been demanding the release of Nusra and ISIL members held in a Lebanese jail.

    Three soldiers were wounded in Friday’s bomb attack, which targeted a military personnel carrier.

    Following the bombing, soldiers raided houses in the town in search of fighters, security sources said, and later, according to the state news agency, the army used “heavy weapons” to target their positions around Arsal near the border with Syria.

    The Sunni Muslim town has become a refuge for tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing the country’s civil war.

    Two rockets fell in the area of the town of al-Labwe near Arsal but no casualties were reported, security sources said.

    Earlier on Friday, Lebanese soldiers arrested two Syrians in the Bekaa Valley town of Baalbek who had confessed to belonging to the Nusra Front, security sources said.

    Security forces also detained six Syrians in the predominantly Shia town of Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon who had confessed to membership of “terrorist groups”, a security official said.

    One had been found in possession of explosive belts, he said.


  5. Tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds have crossed into Turkey over the past day, fleeing an advance by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), who have seized dozens of villages close to the border, Turkish officials say.

    Turkey opened a stretch of the frontier on Friday after Kurdish civilians fled their homes, fearing an imminent attack on the border town of Ayn al-Arab, known as Kobani in Kurdish.

    “Around 45,000 Syrian Kurds have crossed the border as of now from eight entrance points along a 30km distance from Akcakale to Mursitpinar since we opened the border yesterday,” Numan Kurtulmus, Turkish deputy prime minister, said.

    The refugees, who fled fighting between ISIL and Kurdish fighters, had been amassing along the border since Thursday.

    ISIL’s advances in northern Syria have prompted calls for help by the region’s Kurds who fear an impending massacre in the town of Kobani, which sits in a strategic position close to the Turkish border.

    At least 18 ISIL fighters were killed in clashes with Syrian Kurds overnight as the Sunni armed group took control of more villages around the town, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war.

    Masoud Barzani, Iraqi Kurdish leader, called on Friday for international intervention to protect Kobani from the ISIL advance, saying the fighters must be “hit and destroyed wherever they are”.

    The US is drawing up plans for military action in Syria against ISIL, which has seized larges expanses of territory in Syria and Iraq, proclaiming a caliphate in the heart of the Middle East.

    Addressing a session of the UN Security Council on Iraq on Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Iran could play a key role in confronting and eliminating ISIL in Iraq.

    Kerry said there was a role for nearly every country in the world to defeat what he described as a “militant cult masquerading as a religious movement”.

    His comments came as Tehran and six top world powers launched a fresh effort at narrowing differences on what nuclear concessions Iran must agree to in exchange for full sanctions relief.

    US officials told the Reuters news agency the basic dilemma was how to keep Iran from hardening its stance in the nuclear talks out of a belief, which officials say would be misguided, that Washington might make nuclear concessions in exchange for help against ISIL.


  6. Forty-six Turkish hostages seized by fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in June have been brought safely back to Turkey by the country’s intelligence agency, according to Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s prime minister.

    The Turkish hostages, including diplomats, soldiers and children, were seized from Turkey’s consulate in June, along with three Iraqis, who were also released.

    Davutoglu said on Saturday the freed hostages were being brought to the southern Turkish city of Sanliurfa and that he would travel back from Azerbaijan, where he is on an official visit, to meet them.

    "Today at 5am we brought our citizens who were detained in Iraq to our country. From my heart, I thank the families who maintained their dignity," Davutoglu said on his Twitter account.

    He did not provide details on the circumstances of their release but said the hostages were freed through the Turkish intelligence agency’s “own methods” and that no operation was carried out.

    The seizure of the hostages had left Turkey, a member of the NATO military alliance and a key US ally in the Middle East, hamstrung in its response to the threat from ISIL fighters over its southern borders in Iraq and Syria.

    The US is drawing up plans for military action in Syria against ISIL but Turkey had made clear it did not want to take a frontline role, partly because of fears for the fate of the hostages.

    The group has beheaded two US journalists and a British aid worker who were working in Syria as payback for air strikes that the US has launched against them in Iraq.

    "I am sharing joyful news which as a nation we have been waiting for," Davutoglu said.

    "After intense efforts that lasted days and weeks, in the early hours, our citizens were handed over to us and we brought them back to our country.

    "They have crossed into Turkey and I am on my way to see them."

    Separately, 32 Turkish lorry drivers who were also seized in Mosul in June 6 were released a month later.

    Turkey did not provide information surrounding their release.


  7. Doha, Qatar - Several members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), recently unveiled plans to leave Doha “to avoid causing any embarrassment for the State of Qatar”, according to a statement issued by Amr Darrag, a senior MB figure.

    On Saturday, Darrag said on the group’s website: “We appreciate the great role of the State of Qatar in supporting the Egyptian people in their revolution against the military junta, and understand the circumstances faced by the region.”

    Speaking to the New York Times on condition of anonymity, a Qatari diplomat said that the Brotherhood leaders decided to depart on their own without any request from Qatar. “Maybe for some of them, they saw from the media that the country is being pressed and they left of their own free will because they did not want to put the country in an embarrassing situation,” the diplomat said.

    The move raised questions about a possible shift in Qatari foreign policy.

    Qatar has faced increasing criticism from fellow Gulf Cooperation Council countries for hosting exiled Muslim Brotherhood leaders after Egypt declared the movement a terrorist organisation. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates adopted the same position as well.

    In March, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain pulled their ambassadors from Doha because Qatar did not honour an agreement among Gulf Arab countries not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs. The pact, known as the “Riyadh document” has not been made public yet.

    Al Jazeera spoke to Jamal Abdullah, author of “Qatar’s Foreign Policy 1995 - 2013: Leverages and Strategies,” and Head of the Gulf Studies Unit at Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, on the implications of the recent decision and what it may mean for Doha’s political influence in the region. Qatar is expected to host the next GCC summit meeting in December.

    Al Jazeera: Recent press reports spoke about a Qatari decision to expel some leading Muslim Brotherhood figures. Could you put this decision within the larger perspective of GCC relations? In other words, is this one step forward on the road to reconciliation with other Gulf States?

    Jamal Abdullah: I would like to begin with the fact that Qatar did not expel any of the Muslim Brotherhood members or any other residents within its borders. The word expulsion in this context is inaccurate since there was no announcement to expel any member of the group.

    To comment on what had happened, there are two possibilities. The first one is that some MB members had decided on their own to leave Qatar because they sensed that their presence in the country can become a burden on the Qatari government. The second possibility is that the Qatari government might have asked some members of the Muslim Brotherhood to look for another host country in light of the regional political developments.

    The departure of a number of the Egyptian MB group members from Doha, could indeed be a step forward in the direction of bridging the rift between Qatar and other GCC over the power struggle in Egypt in the aftermath of the coup led by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in late July 2013.

    - Jamal Abdullah, Head of the Gulf Studies Unit at Al Jazeera Center for Studies

    Qatar’s official line is that it would not expel, under any circumstances, whoever comes to it seeking shelter and lives within its border, except in cases when the country’s laws and legal systems are breached.

    This vision has been asserted by the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, in his swearing-in speech in June 2013. He reaffirmed that Qatar would remain the “Mecca of the oppressed “.

    With respect to the second part of the question, yes, the departure of a number of the Egyptian MB group members from Doha, could indeed be a step forward to repair the rift between Qatar and other GCC [members] after relations worsened over disagreements on how to deal with Egypt in the aftermath of the military-led coup in 2013.

    Al Jazeera: Could this be considered concessions made by Qatar to end the political standoff?

    JA: Qatar is a pragmatic and realistic country when it comes to its foreign policy, so concessions, despite some politicians avoiding talking about it, is part of the political process for Qatar. It also seeks to protect its interests based on its foreign policy strategy as stated in Article 7 of its constitution.

    Meanwhile, each country individually, or collectively must work together and work on their diplomatic relations in order to face the security threats that confront the whole gulf region. This is especially true considering that the GCC is facing a threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, ISIL, in Iraq and Syria in the north and by the Houthies in Yemen in the south.

    Al Jazeera: In light of the recent decision, do you think Qatar can no longer push or sustain its political influence in the region since it cannot afford any more political isolation?

    JA: On the contrary, Qatar will maintain its role and influence, but with a different approach. In the first decade of this century, Qatar’s outlook on the world was through soft power, thus it invested in media, education, culture, and its energy resources.

    But by 2011-2013, Qatar had shifted to using hard power when it actively took part in NATO’s military operations to topple the late Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi from power. Qatar, moreover, has provided logistical support to armed Syrian opposition groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
    The key change in Qatar’s foreign policy, however, came in 2013, when the young emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani assumed power and whose foreign policy opted to combine the two previous approaches. Thus Qatar’s new foreign policy approach under its new leadership is called “smart power” which facilitates elements from soft and hard power approaches to advance its interests.

    Al Jazeera: Given what we know about the Riyadh document, what are the other steps Qatar should or is expected to make in order to end the diplomatic standoff with Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain?

    JA: Statements by several Gulf officials, including the Kuwaiti foreign minister, whose country was heading the recent GCC ministerial council held in Jeddah on August 30, as well as the Omani FM, all confirmed that the diplomatic crisis between Qatar on one hand, and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain on the other, was [finally] settled.

    The return of the ambassadors [Saudi, UAE, and Bahraini] to Doha is expected to take place in the next few weeks. The Saudi ambassador is expected to return first while the UAE and Bahrain ambassadors are expected to return to Doha ahead of the GCC summit meeting, due to be held in December.
    In my view, the outcome should not be judged by what Doha offered or what it intends to offer to end the diplomatic crisis with the other Gulf states. The Qatari view is that Doha did not create the crisis, nor had it recalled its ambassadors from the three Gulf states.

    The Riyadh document is a binding agreement to all GCC member states. All are expected to honour what had been agreed upon, thus it was not only Doha that was asked to undertake specific measures, all other GCC states were also committed to put into action similar moves to repair the rift.

    Reactions to GCC ambassador spat
    Al Jazeera: Does this mean that the GCC will now be united in the war against ISIL, given that both Qatar and Saudi Arabia recently agreed to join the US coalition against ISIL?

    JA: Considering that Saudi Arabia played the role of a mediator in solving the dispute between Qatar and the other GCC states, through shuttle diplomacy efforts conducted by a high-ranking Saudi delegation, is an indication that Saudi leaders had understood their role to be responsible partners in addressing the threats facing the Middle East region in general and the Gulf region in particular. Accordingly, this was a step towards uniting the GCC states in the face of foreign threats.

    All the Gulf states, in my view, including Saudi Arabia, have learned the lessons from the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is particularly true given that Saudi citizens who had fought in those wars, came back home, indoctrinated by ideas that constituted a threat to the country’s national security.

    Al Jazeera: In what way will the relationship between Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood be affected by the recent decision?

    JA: Qatar has always maintained good relations with religious organisations such as the MB and other political and nationalist movements in the region.

    As a specialist on Qatar’s foreign policy, I do not believe that Qatar’s relationship with the MB is based on ideology. Qatar, as a sovereign state, has relationship with every one including countries and organisations based on its own interests and on the changing realities.

    One of the main reasons that made Qatar an indispensable player in resolving key disputes and crises in the region is its extensive contacts and relationships it maintains with different parties in the region and outside it.


  8. Sanaa, Yemen - Talks aimed at ending the standoff between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels have once again ground to a halt amid mounting fears that the country is on the brink of civil war.

    Fighting broke out around Sanaa’s Al Iman University, a Salafi educational institute run by a leading member of Islah, Yemen’s main Sunni Islamist party, on September 18, as Jamal Benomar, the UN special envoy to Yemen, attempted to broker a peace deal in the Houthis’ northern heartland of Sadah.

    Hopes of a breakthrough had been raised when the Houthis and the government formed official negotiation teams and Benomar was formally appointed as a mediator on September 13.

    But the Houthi team quit the talks two days later, protesting against the government’s replacement of its negotiators with one that the Houthi officials accuse of refusing to honour the deal brokered by the previous negotiators.

    Ali al-Bokhaiti, the Houthis’ chief spokesman in Sanaa, told Al Jazeera that fighting has since intensified in the north of the country, with clashes breaking out in and around Sanaa that have left dozens of people dead.

    RELATED: Yemen’s president faces political stalemate

    It has now been a month since supporters of the Houthis, a revivalist movement for the Zaydi Shia form of Islam that is unique to north Yemen, took to the streets of Sanaa to protest against what their leader Abdelmalek al-Houthi says is a corrupt government that must be dissolved and what he sees as an unfair decision to increase fuel prices.

    Al-Houthi has also demanded that policies agreed upon by the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), a 10-month series of peace talks held between Yemen’s main political actors in 2013 and 2014, be implemented.

    The Houthis have set up protest camps both in the centre of Sanaa and on the outskirts of the capital, a move which government officials view as being part of a plan to storm the city. “The Houthis are doing their best to create a military presence in Sanaa,” a senior Yemeni official who works closely with President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, told Al Jazeera. The source added that any future deal with the Houthis should include conditions that they leave the capital and commit themselves to a plan of disarmament.

    The Houthis, on the other hand, say their aims are peaceful and that the camps will be removed once a deal is reached. Bokhaiti explained that the Houthis took to the streets “because the president has changed the negotiation team, and he did so when a deal was about to be concluded. We didn’t want to start from the beginning again after all the progress we had made.”

    Inside Story - Is Yemen headed for a conflict?
    But sources close to the government said the two figures involved in the informal talks with the Houthi fighters, Abdelkader Hilal and Abdulkarim al-Iryani, had not been given the authority to negotiate a deal. Their replacements, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, Hadi’s chief of staff, and Jalal Rowaishan, a senior political security official, arrived at the negotiating table only to find that the Houthis had raised the bar too high in their demands, the senior official said.

    "They came with new demands. It’s not the [fuel subsidies] any more and it’s not the NDC outcomes. They are now refusing to implement the NDC recommendations on disarmament and the regions [dividing Yemen into six administrative regions]. They are using it to reopen the regions issue. They want something else."

    During the dialogue conference, the Houthis agreed to a step-by-step process of disarmament to take place as other elements of the peace deal were implemented. The government says that they have not fulfilled their commitments to the process. The Houthis, meanwhile, have complained that a plan to divide the country into six regions - made after the conference - is unfair and must be reviewed.

    Diplomatic and government sources explained that Hilal and Iryani were pulled from the talks because they were making concessions too easily, particularly on fuel prices and the Houthis’ role in a future cabinet, and conceded that the change of negotiation teams may have led to the breakdown in the talks.

    There were too many negotiators on behalf of the president, some talking to the Houthis as part of an official delegation, while others were working behind the scenes… This has created confusion and multiple, slightly different proposals.

    April Alley Longley, Yemen analyst at International Crisis Group.

    "There were too many negotiators on behalf of the president, some talking to the Houthis as part of an official delegation, while others were working behind the scenes," said April Alley Longley, Yemen analyst at International Crisis Group. "This has created confusion and multiple, slightly different proposals."

    A constant flow of leaks and counter leaks to local media outlets had also slowed the talks. The purported leaks of Houthi demands and government concessions, according to both government and Houthi sources involved in the negotiation process, have reinforced a sense of mistrust among negotiators and increased anger within the ranks of the Houthis’ supporters and their opponents at the same time.

    RELATED: Who are the Houthis in Yemen?

    As the talks stutter to a halt, the danger of armed conflict in the capital looms large, with Yemenis fearful that the fighting at Al Iman University could spread to the rest of the capital. The government is already embroiled in fighting the Houthis on the one hand, and tribal and Islamists in the provinces of Al Jawf and Mareb on the other. It is deploying air strikes in an attempt to halt the Islamists’ territorial expansion and back the “popular committees”: tribal militias set up to fight the Houthis.

    In July, the Houthis - who already hold Sadah - consolidated their control over Amran province, which separates Sadah from the capital. Clashes on the outskirts of the capital in recent days have also sparked fears that the group plans to take the capital by force.

    Clashes in Yemeni capital kill dozens
    “The Houthis are coming towards Sanaa with heavy weapons,” the high ranking official told Al Jazeera. “They want to take Al Jawf so they can be close to Mareb, where the [main oil export] pipeline is. This is unacceptable. The clashes are now between the state and the Houthis.”

    The same official agrees that the government, which is also engaged in a war with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is in an extremely delicate position. “We don’t want clashes in Sanaa,” he says. “If we do, it will be everywhere, in every street.”

    Open warfare in the capital would open up a space for AQAP, which exploited the unrest in Yemen’s 2011 uprising to seize territory in the south of the country and to continue its recent resurgence. As a result, militants have expanded their presence in the eastern province of the country. “Now I think it is a suitable environment for all militants including al-Qaeda,” said the official. “All the focus is on the Houthis.”

    Bringing the talks to a conclusion will be difficult, however, Longley said. “Probably [the] most important reason is that over time both sides would have lost trust in each other to negotiate in good faith, a situation that has only been augmented by both sides’ public escalation campaigns in the street and in the media,” she added.

    When asked to respond, the Houthi spokesperson, Bokhaiti, said: “When we say we want the downfall of the government, it’s not because we trust them.”

    Houthi rebels push into Yemeni capital
    The longer the talks drag on, the higher the risk that fighting might spread throughout Sanaa. “[Negotiations] could end spectacularly well tomorrow or drag on for another few weeks,” says Jane Marriot, the UK ambassador to Yemen, who has been supporting the talks. “But I am happy that there are negotiations. As long as you have ongoing negotiations, the less likely it is that there will be fighting inside Sanaa. But with that said, it is also more time for people to pre-position, and to bring weapons inside the capital - which is not good.”

    Should negotiations resume, the main sticking points will be the fuel price, which the Houthis want brought down by 25 percent. The government has already brought it down by 12.5 percent, refusing to go lower.

    The other important point is the Houthis’ demand for a role in a future government. President Hadi has already agreed to dissolve the current cabinet and to give the Houthis at least one ministerial position. But, according to the high-ranking government official, the Houthis want an equal number of cabinet posts to that of the General People’s Congress and al- Islah. The GPC and Islah are Yemen’s biggest parliamentary blocs and hold 50 percent and 30 percent, respectively, of cabinet posts in the current transitional government.

    "We didn’t ask for a certain number of seats; we just asked for the main groups and parties to have a fair share in the government," said Bokhaiti. "We think we are now one of the main powers in Yemen and we want to be treated like everyone else."


  9. he Hague, Netherlands - Three Dutch citizens were arrested last week on suspicion of recruiting for the hard-line Islamic State (IS) group in its armed struggle in Syria and Iraq, as tensions between radical Muslims and Holland’s far-right Pro Patria organisation continue to rise.

    The men detained come from The Hague, the city that positions itself as an international city of peace and justice, and which Islamic State sympathisers have also named “Jihad City”. Mayor of The Hague, Jozias van Aartsen, said during a press conference that they had caught “big fish” who had “sown hatred and incited terrorism” on social media and news sites.

    One of those detained is 32-year-old Azzedine Choukoud, known as Abou Moussa, a charismatic Dutchman of Moroccan descent. He has been involved in demonstrations in recent years, and has been in contact with fighters in Syria. In a YouTube video, he congratulated the Muslim community on the establishment of the caliphate in Iraq and Syria. A few young men hold up a black IS flag in the background.

    According to the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service, the Islamic State movement in the Netherlands amounts to a few hundred followers and several thousand sympathisers. Edwin Bakker, director of the Centre for Terrorism and Counterterrorism at Leiden University, estimated that The Hague’s Islamic State supporters consists of 200 men.

    Every Muslim is basically in favour of the establishment of an Islamic state.

    - Abu Hafs, Salafist preacher

    They come from Schilderswijk neighbourhood, which the media have renamed the “sharia triangle”. This neighbourhood primarily houses immigrants, as do many neighbourhoods in large Dutch cities - in this case more than 90 percent of the population are immigrants. Dissatisfaction is common and unemployment, crime, and poverty rates are higher than in the rest of the country.

    Flying IS flags

    Over the past few months, several pro-Gaza demonstrations have been held in the district, at which a number of people were seen waving IS flags. The radical anti-immigrant, right-wing organisation Pro Patria (For The Fatherland) then held counter-demonstrations.

    "No jihad in our street," shouted the Pro Patria demonstrators. Their "March for Freedom" went straight through the Schilderswijk area, and the mobile unit of the Dutch police force had to keep the two groups apart. The website De Ware Religie (The True Religion), which the government claims glorifies the jihadist ideology, and which the men arrested on August 28 wrote for, reported on "the battle for the Schilderswijk".

    For more than a year, police in The Hague have investigated people who are joining IS and its sympathisers. Five suspects are currently detained. According to the General Intelligence and Security Service, the war in Syria and, especially, the declaration of the caliphate have been a magnet for potential jihadists.

    Some 100 to 200 Dutch citizens have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight, and 33 of them come from The Hague. A few recently made themselves heard in a video, in which they reported on their “territory monitoring in the abandoned city of Aleppo”. At least 14 Dutch citizens are known to have died in Syria.

    Several dozen religious fighters have since returned and it is feared that they will carry out attacks in the Netherlands. An attack by a returned fighter occurred in neighbouring Belgium on May 24 at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, where four people died.

    Police officers arrive to stop a protest against Muslim radicals and Islamic State in The Hague in August [EPA]
    The Dutch cabinet announced a number of measures against religious fighters on August 29. More options will be introduced to revoke Dutch citizenship, and steps will be taken to counter the spread of radical and violently religious information on the Internet. Imams should be prevented from inciting hatred and key figures should ensure that young people are not radicalised, authorities said.

    'Jihad city'

    The Hague’s problems with radical Muslims are not new. Since 2000, popular Syrian imam Fawaz Jneid has given fierce sermons from the Salafist As-Soennah mosque. He has called for the deaths of critics of Islam, such as the politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali and filmmaker Theo van Gogh. A member of a radical group in The Hague, de Hofstadgroep, killed the filmmaker in 2004.

    All sorts of deradicalisation programmes followed the 2004 killing, and the As-Soennah mosque had to change its course. The mosque’s board now states on its website about the Islamic State group: “No sensible person wants to associate themselves with the bloody onslaught of this aberrant group, let alone sympathise with it.”

    An organisation that speaks on behalf of 380 mosques in the Netherlands, the Contactorgaan Moslims en Overheid, distanced itself from the IS after the pro-IS demonstrations as well. In a press release, they called it “shameful” that some Muslim young people have sympathy for IS. “We interpret these rebellious expressions in the light of social dissatisfaction with their own position,” it said.

    In conunction, most Muslims in the radical scene are wary about stating their support for Islamic State, especially after the recent arrests.

    "Every Muslim is basically in favour of the establishment of an Islamic state," claimed the Salafist preacher known as Abu Hafs. He is the spokesman for the Bewust Moslim group. "But it is premature to judge whether the IS is the designated party," he continued. "Not enough is known about the organisation, and the opinions among Muslim scholars are divided."

    Ali Abu Safiya, spokesman for Moslims in Dialoog, a similar platform, said only a small part of the Muslim community in the Netherlands supports the IS unconditionally and “applauds everything they do”.

    "A larger group condemns the IS entirely. Like the vast majority, we are not for or against the IS, but we have a more nuanced position," he said.

    According to Abu Safiya, the one-sided, inaccurate reporting about Islamic State and the “demonisation of its sympathisers” is a major reason for “the increasing sympathy” for the group.

    Demonstrations against IS

    Kurds demonstrate against the violence in northern Iraq in Arnhem, The Netherlands, in August [EPA]
    Meanwhile, various opponents of IS plan to demonstrate against the organisation again. Kawan Rauf, who fled to the Netherlands in the 1990s from Iraqi Kurdistan, told Al Jazeera he has organised a demonstration on September 7 in Amsterdam.

    The goal, among other things, is to request that the government urge the United Nations to protect oppressed people in Syria and Iraq. He said he doesn’t understand IS sympathisers in the Netherlands. “How can you support a murder machine?”

    Rauf knows 25 of the 500 Dutch Kurds who are fighting against the IS in the Middle East. “I’ve tried to stop them but I don’t know how I would react if my mother or my sister were abducted and raped,” he said, noting his family returned to Iraqi Kurdistan because things had been good there in recent years.

    Rauf said he hopes many different groups will come to the demonstration, including Sunni Muslims.

    The Dutch-Syrian activist Andre Abdallah will be there, he told Al Jazeera. Members of his family are Christians, living in the northern Syrian city of Al-Hasaka. “The people there have nowhere to flee. The border between Turkey and Iraq is closed and the IS is now only 20km away,” he said, expressing concern for all groups threatened by IS, not only Christians.

    The right-wing organisation Pro Patria said it plans to demonstrate against IS in The Hague again on September 20. The leader of the anti-Islam Freedom Party, Geert Wilders, and the arch-conservative organisation Nederlandse Volks-Unie said it would join in.

    The Muslim Defence League Holland and the local Islamic Partij van de Eenheid (Unity Party) plan to demonstrate on the same day against “the increasing discrimination against Muslims”.

    Pro Patria said it wants its demonstration to take place again in Schilderswijk. However, Mayor van Aartsen has stipulated that no more demonstrations can take place in residential neighbourhoods for two months, only in designated locations.

    The ban came as a relief for many residents and business owners in the neighbourhood who, according to van Aartsen, also “longed for” the recent arrests of the “ideological pyromaniacs”, referring to the radicalised youth.


  10. Scotland’s landmark independence referendum has resulted in most voters choosing to keep the 307-year union with England.

    With all 32 regional electoral centres reporting on Friday, supporters of the United Kingdom won about 55.3 percent of the vote that has worried allies and investors. About 44.7 percent voted for independence.

    Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister, conceded defeat, saying “we know it is a majority for the No campaign” and calling on Scots to accept the results of the vote.

    He also said he would step down from his post and as leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) at its conference in November.

    Those against independence received a massive boost by strongly taking Edinburgh, the capital, and Aberdeen, the nation’s oil centre.

    The average turnout was 86 percent - a record high for any Scottish election.

    Risks to economy

    Salmond had argued that Scots could go it alone because of its extensive oil reserves and high levels of ingenuity and education.

    However, many saw it as a “head versus hearts” campaign, with cautious older Scots concluding that independence would be too risky financially, while younger ones were enamoured with the idea of building their own country.

    In return for staying in the union, Scotland’s voters have been promised significant - though somewhat unspecified - new powers by the British government, which had feared losing Scotland forever.

    Click here for all our in-depth coverage
    Nick Clegg, the UK’s deputy prime minister, on Friday said he wanted the coalition government to deliver new powers to Scotland, saying Scots’ rejection of independence was a signal for wider constitutional reform across all of Britain.

    "I’m absolutely delighted the Scottish people have taken this momentous decision to safeguard our family of nations for future generations," Clegg said in a statement.

    "We must now deliver on time and in full the radical package of newly devolved powers to Scotland. This referendum marks not only a new chapter for Scotland within the UK but also wider constitutional reform across the Union."

    Trouble averted

    The result saves David Cameron, UK prime minister, from a historic defeat and also helps opposition chief Ed Miliband by keeping his many Labour Party legislators in Scotland in place.

    His party would have found it harder to win a national election in 2015 without that support from Scotland.

    Gordon Brown, former prime minister, who is a Scot, returned to prominence with a vigorous campaign in support of the union in the final days before the referendum vote.

    Brown argued passionately that Scots could be devoted to Scotland but still proud of their place in the United Kingdom, rejecting the argument that independence was the patriotic choice.

    "There is not a cemetery in Europe that does not have Scots, English, Welsh and Irish lined side by side," Brown said in his final speech before the vote.

    "We not only won these wars together, we built the peace together. What we have built together by sacrificing and sharing, let no narrow nationalism split asunder."