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Perilous Studies: Americans in Pakistan's Islamic Schools
By Rania Abouzeid | Time
Mohammad Abdullah, a shy, skinny American in his early 20s with a wispy black beard and knitted white skullcap, is just a month from finishing an eight-year course in religious studies at a Karachi Islamic school, or madrasah. He plans another year of study before returning home to New York to teach Islam at a university or mosque, and the Pakistani American knows that he'll probably be taken for a terror threat. In fact, most of the 60 Americans studying at Karachi's Jamia Binoria (which historically has a higher enrollment of foreign students than other madrasahs in the city) declined to be interviewed, citing fears of being pegged by Homeland Security upon their return to the States. But Abdullah quietly insists he and his schoolmates shouldn't be stigmatized. "Not every university is considered the same. Just because of a few people you can't just say everyone is the same. Just because some students are radical doesn't mean we are."
In theory, however, the overseas students shouldn't really even be in Pakistan. In 2005, then President Pervez Musharraf ordered all foreigners studying at madrasahs, including dual citizens, to leave the country, and banned new students from arriving after claims that several of the London suicide bombers had spent short stints in the Islamic schools. However, the enrollment of foreign students was "insufficiently regulated," enabling many to remain, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in its most recent report on the schools. The civilian government that succeeded Musharraf in 2008 apparently tried to maintain the restrictions by drowning applicants in paperwork. Students must obtain valid visas and security clearances as well as a no-objection certificate (NOC) from their home countries, the Crisis Group says. Read more.
ST. CHARLES, ILL. June 15, 2010 – At its annual conference, the Northern Illinois Conference (NIC) of the United Methodist Church (UMC) voted to divest all holdings in three international corporations that profit from the occupation of Palestine. This action is in response to a plea by Palestinian Christians for action, not just words.
Divestment is a nonviolent form of economic protest long-used by churches and other shareholders to encourage companies to end unjust practices. By selling its investments in Caterpillar (CAT), General Electric (GE) and Terex (TEX), the NIC expresses its commitment to do no harm with its investments and affirms the call of the UMC Book of Discipline to "avoid investments that appear likely, directly or indirectly, to support violation of human rights” (Paragraph 716).
These three companies are among 20 targeted by UMC conferences across the country because they (1) have a presence on occupied land, (2) are involved with the physical settlements, checkpoints and the separation wall, or (3) support activities of the Israeli military in the occupied territories.
Connie Baker from the End the Occupation Task Force of the Board of Church and Society which brought forth the resolution stated: “We are resolute in our support of peace for both Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land and the rights of each to co-exist according to the principles set forth in the Geneva Conventions. It is a small step, but an important one.”
The conference will also send a list of the 20 offending companies to the nearly 400 local churches in Northern Illinois and encourage them to consider divestment from any corporations on the list.
I know it's not Friday anymore, but I'm running late and don't want to miss a $5 Friday. This week I've supported the Secular Student Alliance.
Had enough of Americans coming out of school believing humans lived with dinosaurs, environmentalism fails to properly value the afterlife, wars against people who believe the wrong nonsense are justified, and Bible-thumping morons make the best legislators?
Do something about it:
Tens of millions of Americans, lumped into a diffuse and fractious movement known as the Christian right, have begun to dismantle the intellectual and scientific rigor of the Enlightenment. They are creating a theocratic state based on "biblical law," and shutting out all those they define as the enemy. This movement, veering closer and closer to traditional fascism, seeks to force a recalcitrant world to submit before an imperial America. It champions the eradication of social deviants, beginning with homosexuals, and moving on to immigrants, secular humanists, feminists, Jews, Muslims and those they dismiss as "nominal Christians"—meaning Christians who do not embrace their perverted and heretical interpretation of the Bible. Those who defy the mass movement are condemned as posing a threat to the health and hygiene of the country and the family. All will be purged.
The followers of deviant faiths, from Judaism to Islam, must be converted or repressed. The deviant media, the deviant public schools, the deviant entertainment industry, the deviant secular humanist government and judiciary and the deviant churches will be reformed or closed. There will be a relentless promotion of Christian "values," already under way on Christian radio and television and in Christian schools, as information and facts are replaced with overt forms of indoctrination. The march toward this terrifying dystopia has begun. It is taking place on the streets of Arizona, on cable news channels, at tea party rallies, in the Texas public schools, among militia members and within a Republican Party that is being hijacked by this lunatic fringe. Read more.
By David Swanson
On Saturday, June 5, I took part in an event organized by Jeff Nall of Humanists for Peace, together with Nall, Armineh Noravian, and Debra Sweet. Nall had organized a panel at the national conference of the American Humanist Association to talk about the need to work for peace. And the room was packed.
By David Swanson
I'm at the American Humanists Assoc. conference in San Jose at which Annie Laurie Gaylor is recounting how her Freedom from Religion Foundation won a court order requiring the president to end the National Day of Prayer.
I'm here to speak about peace and humanism. We'll see how it goes. Apparently peace is a majority but not universal value among "humanists".
Gaylor is here to receive an award as a Humanist Heroine, which I think is well deserved.
The case began with a complaint from an individual in Wisconsin about state funds being used to promote a prayer event with a state supreme court justice. When FFRF looked into it, they decided that the people to sue were President George W Bush and his press secretary and Shirley Dobson.
Raised to Hate: Kids of Westboro Baptist Church
Coached by His Dad, 7-Year-Old Says 'Gays, Fags, Hundreds ... of Jews' Are Bound for Hell
By Glenn Ruppel, Kelsey Myers and Eamon McNiff | ABC News
Boaz Drain, a seven-year-old from Topeka, Kan., and his six-year-old sister Faith are the picture of typical American children, chock full of energy, fun and imagination. They watch movies like "Shrek" and enjoy playing with the standards like "Star Wars" light sabers and ray guns.
Yet ABC News' Chris Cuomo was shocked to hear some of the things Bo told him when he visited the Drain family recently.
"I don't think you'll go to heaven, I think you'll go to hell," Bo told Cuomo, adding those who were destined for eternal damnation included "gays, fags, hundreds and hundreds of Jews," among a wide swath of other people that Bo has been taught since birth were hated by God and bound for Hell.
Bo's family belongs to the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, led by Pastor Fred Phelps. Members believe the Bible is the literal law of God, and the penalty for violating the rules and lessons put forth in the scriptures is eternal damnation. Read more.
The Catholic Church is so determined to enforce a ban on all abortions that they have recently punished a nun for providing an abortion in order to save a woman’s life. The woman who had to have the abortion to survive was gravely ill and the abortion was the only way to save her life. What compounds it is that, without the abortion, it is likely that they would have lost both mother and fetus.
Sister Margaret McBride was a nun and administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. After helping to provide the abortion, she was automatically excommunicated from Catholicism. She sat on the ethics board that included doctors who agreed that the woman, who was eleven weeks pregnant, should have an abortion. They agreed that without it the woman would die. Read more.
From TomDispatch today: a striking exploration of why the treatment of the Muslim community in America, especially by law enforcement authorities, has made no sense since 2001 (by a reporter who has long covered the subject) -- Stephan Salisbury, "Citizen Alioune, How Not to Deal with Muslims in America." (In addition, catch Salisbury on the latest TomCast audio interview discussing the words that changed our world since September 11, 2001.)
There was another vendor, Alioune Niass, a Senegalese Muslim, in Times Square on the night of the now infamous car bomb. He was the one who first spotted the smoking car and played a crucial role in reporting it. He got no press attention, no calls from the president, no free tickets to a Mets game. He was not called a hero. And yet his was, as Stephan Salisbury reports, the most courageous of acts.
Salisbury, a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, has long been covering the Muslim community in America and the way it has been treated since September 11, 2001 -- and has just published a book on the subject, Mohamed's Ghosts, An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland. Of Niass, he writes: "Why do I say that his act required courage? Like many Muslim immigrants in New York City and around the country, Niass senses that he is viewed with suspicion by fellow citizens -- and particularly by law enforcement authorities -- simply because of his religion.... in terrorism cases, law enforcement authorities view every Muslim as a potential threat. Ordinary citizens become objects of suspicion for their very ordinariness." And yet he did not hesitate to act.
Using his knowledge of just how ham-handedly law enforcement has dealt with Muslims here, Salisbury explores two new studies. Each was, at least in part, government supported and each indicates just how overblown the fear of terrorism is in the U.S. today -- terror bombing incidents are now significantly lower than in the 1970s! -- and how wrongheaded has been the law-enforcement approach to Muslims in this country. As he writes: "Despite the demurrals of law enforcement officials, the sweeps and on-going, ever-widening investigations have focused exclusively on Muslim enclaves. I have seen the destructive impact on family and community such covert police activity can have: broken homes, deported parents, bereft children, suicides, killings, neighbors filled with mutual suspicions, daily shunning as a fact of life. 'Since when is being Muslim a crime?' one woman whose husband had been swept up off a street in Philadelphia asked me."
In fact, writes Salisbury, quite a different, community-oriented approach to American Muslims would have made far more sense for law enforcement officials. This is a powerful look at a subject many American would prefer not to think about. It's a must read.
Excerpt: The perpetrators have one goal: censor anything — or silence anyone — critical of Islam or the prophet Mohammed. Can you imagine if followers of every faith did this? What if Christians threatened violence to anyone who said Jesus did not die for their sins? What if Jews attacked anyone claiming the Holocaust was fiction? In our 24/7 world, in which information can traverse the globe with the click of a mouse, this type of thin-skinned reaction is especially dangerous. Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper, which published a dozen Mohammed cartoons in 2005, ignited a global tinderbox of jihadists outraged by the "blasphemy."
What makes these reactions doubly troubling for me is that Islam does not support people who violently censor free speech. The Quran guarantees freedom of speech on four occasions, teaching Muslims to respond to people who criticize their faith by asking for proof of their claim. The Quran forbids compulsion in thought. Should a person go as far as to insult a Muslim, the Quran forbids retaliation in any form, explaining that a Muslim's only option is to simply "turn away from them" or "sit not with them." No violence, anger or aggression. Read more.
By David Swanson
Chris Hedges is one of the best, one of the most morally useful, writers we have. He's free of loyalty to political party or dogma. He knows war first hand and describes it without flinching. He's an almost ideal gadfly to our corporatocracy. But he has a hangup on religion that holds him back.
Hedges will tell you that he has no use for fantasies about life after death. He'll profess no interest in gods or prayer or a divine plan or anything of the sort. He's perfectly aware of what lies on the negative side of the balance sheet for religion (or what he would call institutional religion), how it trains blind obedience, how it diminishes the value of life before death, how it shifts responsibility from people to imaginary beings, how it divides groups of people who kill in its name. But when you ask what, then, lies on the positive side of the account for religion that justifies supporting it, Hedges' answers range from slim to silly.
Media Ignore The Fact That Man Who Alerted Police To Failed Times Square Bombing Is A Muslim Immigrant
The chief suspect in the case of the failed Times Square car bombing is Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, who has confessed to the plot. Much of the media has latched onto Shahzad’s Muslim faith and his Pakistani identity, making inflammatory remarks and suggestions about Muslims and Pakistanis:
- CNN contributor and Redstate.com blogger Erick Erickson complained that the words “muslim” and “Islam” are “not mentioned” enough in stories about Shahzad. He wrote, “It really is pathetic that you’re more likely to see the words “racist” and “Republican” together in the newspaper these days than “terrorism” and “Islam.” [5/4/2010]
- Hate radio host Neal Boortz tweeted, “OMG! The Times Square Bomber is a Muslim! Shocker! Who would have believed it?” [5/4/2010]
- The cover of today’s Washington Post-published Express features a black-and-white photo of Shahzad with the sensationalist headline “MADE IN PAKISTAN” [5/5/2010]
Yet one fact being ignored in the American media’s sensationalist narrative about the failed bombing is that the man who was responsible for police finding the bomb was Muslim. The UK’s Times Online reports that Aliou Niasse, a Senagalese Muslim immigrant who works as a photograph vendor on Times Square, was the first to bring the smoking car to the police’s attention: Read more.
Josh Stieber described his experience in war of being trained and ordered to do evil things, and having religious authorities advise him to just trust the military. Ray McGovern asked him to speak more about this, and Chris Hedges and David Swanson offered their thoughts as well. This was during a Thursday, April 29, 2010, “Teach-In on Capitol Hill,” held in Room 2168 of the Rayburn House Building, in Washington, D.C., dealing with the question of what the U.S. Congress must do to end the U.S. Wars and secure a peaceful Middle East. For more details on this event and its sponsors, go to: http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/51592
But this is all because Graham bashes the religion of Islam. If he were just praising one or more religions there would be no concern. The wall of separation of church and state is securely demolished.
Somalia's Al Shabab Recruits 'Holy Warriors' with $400 Bonus
War-torn and Impoverished, Some Somali Youths Join Extremist Group to Make Money
By Scott Baldauf and Ali Mohamed | ABC News
When Dahir Abdi joined the Somali extremist group Al-Shabab early last year, his motive had more to do with money than with God....
So when a recruiter from Al Shabab (whose name means "the youth" in Arabic) gave him $400 and the promise of a regular salary, Dahir joined willingly. He knew that even if he didn't survive the war, his family would have a better chance to ward off starvation....
When the government of Somalia launches its long-threatened offensive against Al Shabab, it will be young men like Dahir who will be in the front lines, recruited by unscrupulous businessmen, trained by Pakistani, Afghan and Arab experts, and guided by a harsh ideology of jihad promulgated by Al Qaeda and its Islamist followers....
Yet as long as Somalia remains war-torn, and as long as Somalis remain poor, Shabab will be able to find willing fighters, Mr. Sharif says. "Somalis have a lot of children, and the school system is destroyed, so for many poor families, the madrassas (religious schools) are the only option where children can get at least a basic education. That is where Shabab goes to recruit."
Virtually unknown four years ago, Al Shabab has rapidly grown to become the strongest military force in Somalia, imposing its own selective interpretation of Islamic law on the southern half of Somalia that is under its control. Al Shabab troops in the very heart of Mogadishu prevent the weak Western-backed government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed from extending its authority beyond a few square blocks of the capital, along with the airport and Mogadishu's seaport. Read more.
Richard Dawkins plans to arrest the Pope for 'crimes against humanity'
By Daily Mail Reporter | Daily Mail Online
Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens - who have both written books promoting atheism - have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.
Two leading atheist campaigners are planning a legal ambush to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain for 'crimes against humanity'.
Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens - who have both written books promoting atheism - have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.
The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.
The Pope was embroiled in new controversy this weekend over a letter he signed arguing that the 'good of the universal church' should be considered against the defrocking of an American priest who committed sex offences against two boys. Read more.
If you're familiar with George Carlin's work, you know that I don't have to say "GRAPHIC LANGUAGE."
Photos Raise Questions About Shooting of Cuffed Muslim Leader
Medical Examiner Photos Also Show Deep Lacerations on Face
By Beth Tribolet and Sharaf Mowjood | ABC News
A fiery Muslim leader who was shot dead during an attempt to arrest him in Dearborn, Mich., was found to have been riddled with 21 shots including one in the back. He also had a broken jaw, broken teeth and his hands were cuffed behind his back, according to an autopsy report.
An autopsy photo obtained by ABC News shows Imam Ameen Abdullah Luqman lying face down on the ground with his hands clearly cuffed behind him.
Additional photos obtained by ABC News also show deep lacerations on Luqman's face that his family believes may have been caused by a police dog.
Federal authorities claim that Luqman, 53, was killed last October in a Dearborn trailer after failing to surrender to police. The day before the raid, federal authorities filed a criminal complaint that alleged conspiracy to commit federal crimes including theft from interstate shipments, mail fraud to obtain proceeds from arson, illegal sale and possession of firearms and tampering with motor vehicle identification numbers. These allegation were made through the use of confidential informants, the documents state. Read more.
Bishop Rights: Coffee Strong Welcomes Travis Bishop
Travis Bishop walked into Coffee Strong on Thursday morning, March 25, released from the Ft Lewis brig after serving a seven and a half month sentence, for conscientious objection to service in Afghanistan. He seemed dazed by smiling faces in greeting, and then offered a big hug.
Many people helped with his early release: Gerry Condon and VFP 92, Jeff Patterson and Sarah Lazare at Courage to Resist, the great reporting skills of Dahr Jamail; Seth Manzel, James Branum, LeGrand Jones, Coffee Strong crew, and Amnesty International Puget Sound; 538 letter writers who were persistent! It felt like a community cared, and soldiers gathered to extend their appreciation. Good food and guitar strumming marked the occasion.
“Travis is an inspiration to all who want to actively oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am very proud to have met him and am glad he is part of the Coffee Strong community,” said one of the soldiers.
Sergeant Bishop refused to serve in Afghanistan, based on his Baptist upbringing, and current convictions that Jesus practiced a strict pacifism. His convictions earned him the title of Prisoner of Conscience from Amnesty International. And he wished he had known sooner that he could have filed conscientious objection paperwork. (Travis thought this was an anachronism from the Vietnam War era).
We talked about how difficult it was to get letters delivered, once he had people listed on his “acceptance list.” He said even his mother’s letters were returned.
The most critical part of his journey remains to unfold. Attorney James Branum wrote last Fall about his dedication to pursuing what he terms “Bishop’s Rights”—the right for every young soldier to be apprised of their conscientious objection rights, without punishments (that include loss of rank, loss of benefits and dishonorable discharge, not to mention isolation, jail sentences, and possibly, abusive treatment).
Lest anyone think members of organized religions are above reproach, take note.
In his new book "God and His Demons," Michael Parenti confronts both Old and New Testaments saying:
"The god of the Holy Bible - so much adored in the United States and elsewhere - is ferociously vindictive, neurotically jealous, intolerant, vainglorious, punitive, wrathful, sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sadistic and homicidal. As they say, it's all in the Bible. Beware of those who act in the name of such a god. Were we to encounter these vicious traits in an ordinary man, we would judge him to be in need of lifelong incarceration at a maximum-security facility. At the very least, we would not prattle on about how he works his wonders in mysterious ways."
In fact, 'biblical Jesus qualifies quite well as founder and forerunner of an intolerant Christianity."
Leaving child molestation implied but unaddressed, the Bible deals with sexuality in broader terms, including incest, adultery, homosexuality, and rape - children vulnerable to all except adultery.
Jesus also preached love your enemies and return good for evil, a message saying child molesters deserve forgiveness, not punishment, that's an open invitation for pedophiles, an epidemic now raging in the Catholic church but one with longstanding roots.
Remember when Oklahoma lawmakers passed a bill declaring the state exempt from the Matthew Shepard Act? It turns out the asshats cited the wrong federal bill number in their legislation and Oklahoma is actually now exempt from federal laws about reporting racial and religious discrimination.
In trying to strip gays and lesbians of their rights, the Oklahoma State Senate inadvertently cited the wrong section of the U.S. code. The bill stripped protections under Title 18 U.S. Code Section 245, but protections for sexual orientation and gender identity is actually under Section 249. From the bill:
A December rampage that killed hundreds in the Democratic Republic of Congo went largely unreported because of lack of communications in the remote area, a United Nations official said Sunday.
The Lord's Resistance Army carried out the brutal campaign in northeastern Congo over four days, killing at least 321, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
Rebels also abducted 250 others -- including at least 80 children -- when they attacked villages in Makombo area, the human rights group said Saturday.
Alan Doss, a United Nations Special Representative for Congo, confirmed the massacre and said the world body was made aware of the attacks in December and confirmed some deaths in January.
"The area is remote, there's no intelligence or communications, we had to cross check," Doss said. Read more.
For the world to tackle truly important problems, people have to stop looking to religion to guide their moral compasses, the philosopher Sam Harris told CNN.
"We should be talking about real problems, like nuclear proliferation and genocide and poverty and the crisis in education," Harris said in a recent interview at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California. TED is a nonprofit group dedicated to "ideas worth spreading."
"These are issues which tremendous swings in human well-being depend on. And it's not at the center of our moral concern."
Religion causes people to fixate on issues of less moral importance, said Harris, a well-known secularist, philosopher and neuroscientist who is the author of the books "The End of Faith" and "Letter to a Christian Nation."
"Religion has convinced us that there's something else entirely other than concerns about suffering. There's concerns about what God wants, there's concerns about what's going to happen in the afterlife," he said.
"And, therefore, we talk about things like gay marriage as if it's the greatest problem of the 21st century. We even have a liberal president who ostensibly is against gay marriage because his faith tells him it's an abomination.
"It's completely insane." Read more.
On his daily radio and television shows last week, Fox News personality Glenn Beck set out to convince his audience that "social justice," the term many Christian churches use to describe their efforts to address poverty and human rights, is a "code word" for communism and Nazism. Beck urged Christians to discuss the term with their priests and to leave their churches if leaders would not reconsider their emphasis on social justice.
"I'm begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!" Read more, hear the audio.
There’s nothing unusual about partisans of the Bush administration defending waterboarding as a useful form of “enhanced interrogation.” Others will go even further, calling the technique “torture,” but saying it may be a necessary evil. What is a bit unusual is the case being made by Marc A. Thiessen, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
In “Courting Disaster: How the C.I.A. Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack,” Mr. Thiessen, a practicing Roman Catholic, says that waterboarding suspected terrorists was not only useful and desirable, but permitted by the teachings of the Catholic Church.
This does not square, to put it mildly, with the common understanding of Catholic teaching. In the past month, Catholic bloggers and writers from across the political spectrum have united to attack his views, and to defend their own: that waterboarding is torture, and that Roman Catholics are not supposed to do it.
Mr. Thiessen makes two basic arguments. First, he says that waterboarding, the simulated drowning technique used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the professed chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, and others, is not torture. “I didn’t get into the Catholic theological stuff of it until I sat down to write the book,” Mr. Thiessen said in a phone interview. So when Mr. Bush asked him, in 2006, to write a speech explaining the C.I.A.’s interrogation program, Mr. Thiessen asked himself other kinds of questions.
“There’s a standard of torture in civil law,” he said, “which is severe mental pain and suffering. I also have a common-sense definition, which is, ‘If you’re willing to try it, it’s not torture.’ ” Read more.
ABC News Exclusive: Chicago Father Faces Jail for Bringing Daughter to Church
Feuding, Inter-Faith Parents Test Boundaries of Religion in Family Court
By Lauren Pearle, Felicia Patinkin, Teri Whitcraft and Sunny Antrim | ABC News
Three-year-old Ela Reyes is caught in the middle of her feuding parents' divorce battle -- a private child custody fight that has erupted in a public firestorm over religion and the boundaries of faith and the law.
Joseph Reyes faces jail time for taking daughter, Ela, to a Catholic church in defiance of a temporary court order forbidding him from exposing the child to any religion but Judaism.
His estranged wife, Rebecca Reyes spoke exclusively to ABC News' Chris Cuomo about why she asked for the order and the jail time, in a case that is making national headlines. Read more.
Israeli threats of war because of Hezbollah's role in the Lebanese government is just an excuse to prepare for attacks, the prime minister said in Italy.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with Pope Benedict XVI during an official visit to Italy, Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper reports. The premier said he wondered why Israel was using Hezbollah as a pretext for aggression, as the Shiite resistance movement has a history of government involvement.
"Hezbollah participated in the government in 2007, 2008 and 2009 so why now (is Israel) raising the issue? Because Israel is looking for excuses for war," he told the Italian daily Corriere Della Sera. Read more.