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Islam in the News (April 2013)

'Islam in the News' contains worldwide news concerning Islam and its followers. Further news covering the persecution of minorities, free speech, and some other issues can be found via the hub page

UK: Six Muslims face lengthy prison sentences after admitting plot to bomb EDL rally causing mayhem and mass injuries

Six Islamic extremists who plotted a bloody bomb attack on a far-right rally only failed because the gathering finished early - even though they were under surveillance, a court heard.

The group admitted planning a murderous attack at the English Defence League (EDL) event in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, when they appeared before a judge today.

Five members of the gang travelled to the rally with an arsenal of weapons - including a nail bomb which contained 458 pieces of shrapnel, a partially assembled pipe bomb, two shotguns, swords and knives.

The nail bomb was an 18-inch (46cm) long rocket which had been stuffed with shrapnel and was to be powered by explosives taken from at least two large fireworks.

The fanatics' plan failed by chance, because they arrived at 4pm when the rally had dispersed by 2pm.

Police and security services had no intelligence about the planned attack on June 30 last year, although one of the would-be killers was under surveillance in relation to another terrorist plan.

It was only on their way back to Birmingham on the M1 that their car was pulled over because they didn't have insurance, and the plot unravelled.

The car was impounded and it was only two days later that staff looked at the contents of the Renault Laguna - and found the arsenal of weapons. At London's Woolwich Crown Court today Jewel Uddin, Omar Mohammed Khan, Mohammed Hasseen, Anzal Hussain, Mohammed Saud and Zohaib Ahmed admitted preparing an act of terrorism between May 1 and July 4 last year.

All of the men except Hasseen travelled to the rally.

Another of the group, Zohaib Ahmed, was also on bail for possession of terrorist documents at the time of the plot. Police estimated there could have been up to 750 EDL marchers at the Dewsbury event, but also dozens of officers and innocent passers-by.

In the car there were also 10 copies of a hate-filled note addressed to the enemies of Islam, the Queen and Prime Minister David Cameron.

It said: 'This is a message to the enemies of Allah and his messenger. This is a message to the kafir (non-believer) female devil and self-proclaimed Queen Elizabeth and her accursed jubilee, fooling a nation of blind sheep to your self-proclaimed royalty and majesty.' The document addressed the EDL directly, saying: 'To the EDL (English Drunkards League). O enemies of Allah! We have heard and seen you openly insulting the final Messenger of Allah... you should know that for every action there is a reaction.

'Today is a day of retaliation (especially) for your blasphemy of Allah and his Messenger Muhammad. We love death more than you love life. The penalty for blasphemy of Allah and his Messenger Muhammad is death.

'What we did today was a direct retaliation of your insulting of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and also in retaliation of your crusade against Islam/Muslims on a global scale. It is of the greatest honour for us to do what we did.' CDs of speeches by radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki were also found.

Police and security services had the sixth man under low-level surveillance in relation to another terrorist plot...
The men, who have already been warned that they face "significant custody", only failed in their deadly plan because the gathering in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, last summer finished earlier than expected

Six Islamic extremists from Birmingham are to be sentenced for planning a murderous attack on an English Defence League rally, amid renewed controversy surrounding the far right group.

The men, who have already been warned that they face "significant custody", only failed in their deadly plan because the gathering in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, last summer finished earlier than expected.

Jewel Uddin, 27, Omar Mohammed Khan, 31, Mohammed Hasseen, 24, Anzal Hussain, 25, Mohammed Saud, 23, and Zohaib Ahmed, 22, all from Birmingham, are all due to appear at the Old Bailey.

All of the men except Hasseen travelled to the rally armed with two shotguns, swords, knives, a nail bomb containing 458 pieces of shrapnel, and a partially assembled pipe bomb, ready to cause mass injuries and deaths.

The nail bomb was an 18-inch (46cm) long rocket which was stuffed with shrapnel and was to be powered by explosives taken from at least two large fireworks.

Police and security services had no intelligence about the planned attack on June 30 last year, although Uddin was under surveillance in relation to another terrorist plan.

Ahmed was also on bail for possession of terrorist documents at the time of the plot.

Their sentencing comes amid fresh publicity surrounding the EDL in the wake of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby, and increased tensions between various political and religious factions...

Italy: Police arrest six 'Islamists' linked to international terrorists with a dislike for 'infidel' countries and Jews

Italian carabinieri remanded into custody six suspects in an investigation into international terrorism and incitement to racial hatred. The Bari public prosecutor's office issued the arrest warrant targeting an Islamist cell operating in Italy's Apulia region and abroad. The cell was found to have close links to international terrorists and is characterised by keen antisemitism and a bitter dislike for "infidel" countries such as Italy and the United States. The raid carried out by a special task force in Apulia yielded evidence of "widespread proselytic activities and the indoctrination of new members", including audiovisual material inciting jihad and suicide attacks in the West and in "war zones". .

Saudi Arabia: Religious police arrest 15 female university students at a mixed-gender cocktail party

15 Saudi girls arrested at cocktail party

Saudi Arabia’s feared religious police arrested 15 female university students during a cocktail party that also involved five men.

Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice raided a rest house in the western town of Taif after receiving information about plans to stage a concert that will include music and dancing.

Newspapers said the five male students managed to escape while all the 15 girls were arrested. They said police seized a large amount of “pies, sweets and juice” at the party.

Men and women are not allowed to interact in conservative Saudi Arabia unless they are closely related.

PA: 'Modesty police' in Gaza arrest at least 41 men on charges of immodesty this April, most of them beaten

It's three weeks since his arrest but Ismail Halou still has streaks of purple bruising on the soles of his feet. The 22 year-old was filling cars at his family's petrol station in Gaza City at 5pm on April 4th when a black jeep pulled into the forecourt, plain-clothed police stepped out and ordered him into the car. He was blindfolded and driven to the nearest police station.

"I could hear the screams of people being beaten in the rooms next to me. Two men held my legs down and tied them together on a wooden board then they beat the soles of my feet with a plastic rod. They beat me for at least five minutes. I was crying and screaming with agony. It was the worst pain I've ever felt," Mr Halou recalls.

It was only after the beating that police officers set to work trying to shave off the one-inch fin of gelled hair that was the cause of his arrest.

"At no point did they tell me why they had arrested me. I found out from neighbours when I got home that it was because of my hair," Mr Halou explains, running a hand over the fuzzy regrowth on his head. He could not walk for three days after his release.

Police in Gaza, a Palestinian coastal enclave run by Islamist faction Hamas, have arrested at least 41 men on charges of immodesty this April.

Most of them were beaten, all of them had their heads forcibly shaven. Some were shaven because their haircuts that were deemed culturally inappropriate, others because their trousers were either too low-slung or too fitted. In at least two cases, police also cut-up jeans deemed too tight.

Rajou Hayek, 33, was arrested while pushing his wheelchair-bound father to a health clinic in Gaza City, he claims for no reason other than intimidation.

"When I arrived at the police station, the first thing I saw was a mountain of hair, it looked like it had been shaved from 300 heads," Mr Hayek says.

He sustained a savage beating before also having his head shaved.

"It was humiliating, I was crying throughout. This policy is nothing to do with jeans or hairstyles. Hamas is just trying to make Gaza afraid of them."

During their six years running Gaza, Hamas security forces have used thuggish tactics against political opponents.

But a violently enforced public modesty campaign is new. This latest trend of punitive head shaving has shocked a conflict and poverty hardened community. Gaza is gripped with a palpable fear that Hamas is driving the population towards unapologetic, militant, Islamic fundamentalism.

Egypt: Satirist Bassem Youssef criticized for 'insulting Islam' after hosting a band whose lead singer is gay

Some people criticized Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef this week for “insulting Islam” after hosting a band whose lead singer is gay.

However, Youssef said it was not was his place to ask about his guests’ sexual orientation.

In a live interview with Huffington Post’s Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, Youssef said that it is “ridiculous” critics would condemn him for allegedly misrepresenting Islam because he hosted on his show on Friday a Lebanese band, Mashrou Leila.

Hamed Sinno, the group’s lead singer, had previously announced that he was gay. However, the issue was not brought up during the band’s segment on Youssef’s show, “Al Bernameg.”

“I heard their song, and I didn’t ask about their [sexual] orientation,” said Youssef. “We invited them and they came… I did not check [Sinno’s] background.”

Shihab-Eldin told Al Arabiya English that he interviewed Youssef on the topic of homosexuality because the political satire comedian was accused of “giving [homosexuals] a platform” on his show.

“It’s a popular band being heard all over the place,” Youssef told Shihab-Eldin.

“They will try to dig out anything to alienate you in front of the people, whether it is religion or America,” said the comedian.
. . .
Last month, Egypt’s public prosecutor summoned the popular TV host Bassem Youssef, calling for him to be brought in for alleged insults he made against Islam and Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Syria: Two Orthodox bishops still held captive in Aleppo, while mortar attack on city's Christian neighborhood kills four

The two Orthodox bishops kidnapped in Aleppo are still in the hands of kidnappers, Mgr. Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Greek Melkite bishop of Aleppo, told AsiaNews. "The Catholic and Orthodox Churches are doing their best to mediate with the kidnappers," the prelate added, "but at present no one understands the reasons for this act and who is behind these criminals."

Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, Syrian Orthodox bishop of the diocese of Aleppo, and Boulos Yaziji, Greek Orthodox archbishop of the diocese of the same city, were abducted on 22 April in Kafr Dael, ten km from Aleppo, on the Turkish border. Their driver, a Syrian Orthodox deacon, was killed.

This morning, mortar rounds hit one of the city's main Christian neighbourhoods. The shelling killed four people and several houses have collapsed.

"The situation in the city is terrible; no one is safe, not even the Christians," said Archbishop Jeanbart.

Christians have not taken sided with either the rebels or regime. "I do not know who fired at Christian homes or why," the prelate explained, "but it sure was not a ballistic mistake."

The bishop appealed again to the Western world. "Stop this war!" he said. "Help Syrian leaders choose dialogue and reconciliation over conflict and hatred!" (S.C.)

Syria: Turkey-backed rebels beheaded 20 men, offer headless bodies to the families, but for ransom of 100,000 Syrian Pounds

The Shiite towns of Nubbol and AlZahraa a home for over 60,000 Syrians had been under siege for the last 10 months now by the “rebels”. The towns have reached the end of their rope. Children started dropping dead because of hunger.

Knowing the danger still some of the residents ventured out, to bring food and supplies. That’s what happened to the latest group, twenty Shia men, who left to bring food to their families and children a week ago.

Turkey-backed Al-Qaeda FSA hang some of the heads on the entrance of the towns. They offered to give the headless bodies to the families, but for a ransom of about 100,000 Syrian Pound.

The manager of the medical center in Nubbol Dr. Hussein Najjar warned of an eminent human crisis in the besieged towns.

“The towns are suffering from the lack of essential services, no water or electricity, and a siege that won’t allow even food or children’s milk in.”

“Many diseases have spread like Maltese fever, cutaneous leishmaniasis and scabies because of lack of water and of medical supplies.”

“The residents of Nubbol and AlZahraa are forced to survive on diet of grass because of lack of food. If the siege doesn’t end soon 60,000 lives are in danger.”

Al-Qaeda FSA terrorist groups recently started a siege on the villages surrounding Nubbol and AlZahraa, thirteen villages in total. Still the ‘humanitarian’ west keeps rewarding those killing Syrians with aid and weapons.

Australia: Islamic school principal steals funds of more than $500,000, issues threats against school's chairman

Rissalah College in Lakemba, in Sydney’s southwest, is the latest Muslim school to be embroiled in controversy, with the school’s chairman and treasurer alleging, in affidavits tendered and read in the NSW Supreme Court, misappropriation of funds of more than $500,000 by the principal Ali Roude…

In court documents tendered in court and obtained by The Australian, [school chairman Bassam] Kamaledine claims he was the subject of a death threat and shown a cocked rifle by a relative of Mr Roude…

In the affidavit, Mr Kamaledine claims Mr Roude’s relative met him at a house to discuss complaints he had made about alleged financial mismanagement by Mr Roude at the school…

In Mr Kamaledine’s affidavit, he says Mr Roude’s relative told him: “I want you to back off . . . Ali . . . stop stressing them out, I don’t want you to get involved in what they do at the school and you leave them alone to do whatever they want. It’s their school…

“I have 200 to 250 guys behind me and we have more guns than the army. You should have been gone 2 1/2 weeks ago but I stepped in and if you don’t do as I’m telling you I’m gonna take matters into my own hands...”

Mr Roude’s lawyers issued a short statement yesterday saying their client had done nothing wrong...

Pakistan: "We are not in favor of democracy, democracy is for Jews and Christians" Taliban kill 8 more candidates in upcoming elections

t least eight people were killed Sunday as the Pakistani Taliban continued to attack candidates in that country's upcoming elections, authorities said.

The Pakistani Taliban, in a statement obtained by CNN, took responsibility for the bombings at the offices of candidates in Peshawar and the Orakzai Agency.

The Taliban said it targeted secular candidates, but many parties have been hit by the increasing violence.

"A man cannot be secular and Muslim at a time. These are two different doctrines in nature," the statement said.

The elections in May mark the first time in Pakistan's history that one democratically elected government will give way to another.

The nation has experienced three military coups, been ruled by generals for half its life, and it remains mired in near-constant political turmoil.

Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud has told Pakistanis to stay away from the elections.

"We are not in favor of democracy, democracy is for Jews and Christians," he said in recent propaganda video.

"They are intended to divide Muslims; we want the implementation of Sharia (law) and for that jihad is necessary," he added. Both attacks Sunday targeted independent candidates.

Five people died and 22 were wounded by Sunday's explosion in Orakzai, said Dilawar Khan Bangish, police chief of the Kohat District...

UK: Al Qaeda's cocaine smugglers flooding country with drugs, profits used to fund terror plots in UK and Europe

Al Qaeda has teamed up with other terror groups to smuggle cocaine to Britain, the Sunday People has ­discovered.

One plot involved a staggering four tons of the illegal drug with a street value of £168million.

Al Qaeda, led by 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden until his death in May 2011, is using profits to fund terror plots in the UK and western Europe.

And they have paid for the cocaine with weapons looted in Libya during the mayhem following the death of Colonel Gaddafi in 2011.

Spooks from MI6 and the UK’s criminal intelligence agency SOCA have joined forces to investigate al Qaeda’s links to drug cartels and terrorist groups in Africa and South America.

Two Colombians – one a member of left-wing terror movement FARC – were arrested after a probe by the US Drugs Enforcement Agency.

It is understood the South American group, now a major ­cocaine cartel, sold a large quantity of the drug to bin Laden’s North African branch, al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb.

They paid using cash and also weapons looted in Libya.

The drug was shipped to North Africa and moved across the Mediterranean into southern France where it is believed to have been distributed to other European ­countries, including the UK.

A second operation carried out by secret intelligence groups led to the arrest of the former head of the navy in West Africa’s Guinea-Bissau, now classed as a “narco-state” because of its reliance on the cocaine trade.

Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto and six others have now been flown to New York and charged with drugs trafficking. Four also face terrorism charges.

They were caught in a sting ­operation in which they believed they were talking to members of FARC. They agreed to supply ground-to-air missiles and a quantity of AK-47 assault rifles and grenade launchers in exchange for four tons of cocaine with a street value of £168million.

Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb has long been involved with cocaine traffickers, receiving large payments to ensure drug runners could safely cross the Algerian Sahara with multi-million-pound consignments.

But spies say this is the first time evidence has emerged suggesting the organisation are themselves trafficking cocaine into Europe.

A highly placed crime ­intelligence source in London said: “It is a very worrying development and both MI6 and SOCA will be working ­together to find out as much as they can...

Egypt: Sex tourism, involving underage children, on the rise since 2011 'revolution'

The stench of dire poverty rises above the Hawamidiyya villages along the Nile, some 30 kilometers south of Cairo. It is not strange to see fancy cars, most of which have license plates bearing the words ‘customs’ or ‘tourism,’ parked along the lively corners of derelict streets. There is nothing at all to indicate that these cars belong to the inhabitants of Hawamidiyya; this phenomenon is linked to ‘tourism marriage’ brokers.

Rich Gulf nationals go to Hawamidiyya, especially during the summer, to contract marriages for a definite period of time in return for a meager amount of money, some of which goes to the broker. The rest goes to the family of a young woman, often a virgin under 18 years of age, so that a rich man about the same age as her father can have sex with her while on vacation in Egypt.

During the years before the 2011 revolution, women’s and human rights organizations in Egypt followed several courses of action in their struggle to end such practices, including awareness-raising marches in areas where ‘tourism marriage’ is popular, in order to disseminate the dangers it entails. Rights groups have also advocated the promulgation of a law that criminalizes marriages if either one of the spouses is under 18 years of age. However, these efforts regressed after the revolution and such practices came back with a vengeance, against a backdrop of economic crisis and weak local authorities. Illegal practices, like changing the young woman’s age through falsified medical evidence attesting that she is over 18 years of age has also become widespread.

The growing phenomenon of ‘tourism marriage’ in Egypt’s governorates and towns was profiled in the US Department of State report on human trafficking last year, which estimated the number of such marriages to be in the hundreds. According to the report, “minor girls are entering into temporary marriages with Arab Gulf tourists during the summer in return for money” with “underage girls being taken into sexual slavery and forced to work as servants.”

Dr. Hoda Badran, president of the Egyptian Women’s Union, told NOW that poverty is the main factor behind the spread of this phenomenon, asserting that “tourism marriage is a form of slavery or of selling women.” Badran explained that she met with several “summer wives,” some of whom gave birth to children and struggled to inform the husband of his paternity. ‘Tourism marriage’ victims may have to abandon their newborns at an orphanage or childcare center so as not to become an ‘outcast’among her family members, the same people who may have sold her in the first place.

Nohad Abu al-Qomsan, president of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, told NOW: “Slavery and servitude have acquired a legitimate cover in some countries, including that of summer marriage, which has spread in many Egyptian villages, not only in Hawamidiyya, due to poverty and other pretexts.” Qomsan noted that, in many cases, a girl is married off several times in a sort span of time without heeding the customary waiting period, which might cause confusion as to the identity of the child’s father.

Qomsan argued that some Islamists want to “turn the poor into a pool of abominations, which can be traded on the pleasure market, with clients seeking multiple wives or marriage for pleasure.” She also underscored the phenomenon of marrying displaced Syrian women in Egypt.

Stories about of some mosques – mostly affiliated to Islamist currents in Cairo and other known regions, especially on the outskirts of the capital – promulgating the idea of marrying displaced Syrian women under the guise of ‘shelter marriage’ in return for sometimes no more than 1,000 Egyptian pounds (about $150 USD).

The National Council for Women has addressed Interior Minister Major General Mohammad Ibrahim and Justice Minister adviser Ahmad Maki in the hopes of having appropriate measures enacted to ban the exploitation of women who already find themselves in dire circumstances – Syrians and Egyptians alike. The council’s report cited their statistic that at least 12,000 of these ‘tourism marriages’ have been recorded.

But according to Justice Ministry adviser Ahmad Salam, the ministry’s statistics indicate that only 170 Egyptian men have officially married Syrian women between January 2012 and the end of March 2013. This allegedly proves that thousands of marriages between Egyptian men and female Syrian refugees are not being officially documented, with the two parties merely holding a customary marriage or even saying they are married without there being any contract between them.

Undocumented marriages are promoted and sponsored by Salafist sheikhs and are often officiated in mosques.

No doubt the Muslim Brotherhood-led government will use their own statistics in determining whether or not any rights are being violated and, moreover, whether or not to enact any legislation aimed at protecting marginalized women.

US: Army officer publicly condemned and fired as war college instructor because of teachings about radical Islam

The Pentagon’s top brass has dealt another blow to a decorated Army officer who was fired last year as a war college instructor because of his teachings about radical Islam, his attorney told The Washington Times.

A four-star general’s rejection of Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley for consideration for command of a combat battalion likely means the end of a promising Army career of an armor officer who was decorated for valor in Iraq and received glowing evaluations.

Last year, Col. Dooley underwent an Army command selection board review after he was transferred from the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., to a weapons integration unit at Fort Eustis, Va.

The review board, comprising three generals and two colonels, voted to keep Col. Dooley as a candidate for battalion commander, his attorney, Richard Thompson, told The Times.

The board, however, was overruled by Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, then the Army’s vice chief and now chief of U.S. Central Command. He ordered Col. Dooley’s name removed from the candidates list, said Mr. Thompson, who added that he had read the “official use only” memo.

News of Col. Dooley’s setback has emerged as some researchers of radical Islam are criticizing the Obama administration for downplaying the Islamic connection in a string of attempted and successful terrorist attacks, including the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15.

Mr. Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan, said the blame for Col. Dooley’s treatment ultimately belongs to ArmyGen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Dempsey publicly condemned Col. Dooley’s teachings and set into motion investigations that resulted in his firing.

“When he entered West Point, Matt Dooley’s ultimate goal was to one day command a battalion,” Mr. Thompson said. “But after 18 years of hard work, family sacrifice, six deployments and outstanding officer evaluations, Matt’s dream was shattered by Gen. Dempsey...

US: 'My dad forced me to be Muslim' says American boy kidnapped by his father, and later rescued by his mother

Through the slit of the burqa she wore to blend in on the streets of Alexandria, Egypt, Kalli Atteya waited and watched until the boy climbed off the school bus. When she saw him, she moved quickly, grabbing his arm and steering him toward the waiting motorized cart.

"Get in," she said to the 12-year-old, who recognized his mother's piercing blue eyes and obeyed wordlessly.

Soon, they were speeding toward a safehouse where they would wait for three weeks before returning to the U.S., and ending a 20-month ordeal that began with another abduction — one the boy, Khalil Mohamed “Niko” Atteya, did not accept willingly. His father, Mohamed Atteya, who is wanted by the U.S. authorities, is accused of luring the mother and son to his homeland, then snatching the boy and leaving Kalli Atteya and her sister on the side of a desolate road between Cairo and Port Said on Aug. 1, 2011.

“My Dad forced me to be Muslim, which I did not want to do,” Niko, who has been back in Pennsylvania for more than a month, told

A world away, he had a determined mother who would spare no expense and even risk her own safety to save her boy. After a torturous struggle that included false leads, false hopes and more than $100,000 spent, Kalli Atteya finally showed what the love and determination of a mom can do

“I was really nervous, but I was bound and determined to take my son,” she told during an interview in Chambersburg, Pa., near where Atteya and her son now live.
. . .

US: Second man in NYC Synagogue Bomb Plot sentenced to five years in prison

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

The Boston Marathon explosions were on the minds of officials in Manhattan yesterday as a would-be city synagogue bomber was sentenced to five years’ prison.

Mohamed Mamdouh, 22, a naturalized citizen from Morocco, had pleaded guilty in a closed-court proceeding last year to conspiracy and weapons possession as crimes of terror.

His co-defendant, Algerian citizen Ahmed Ferhani, got a 10-year sentence last month as the scheme’s mastermind.

The two had been taped during an eight-month NYPD undercover operation plotting to throw a grenade into an unspecified synagogue and to wire multiple bombs to a single detonator to blow up several synagogues simultaneously.

DA Cyrus Vance Jr. said the sentencing “marks the successful conclusion of New York’s first state-level terror prosecution.”
5 yrs. for bomber wannabe
New York Post, April 27, 2013

US: Officials plan to search for 9/11 human remains behind a mosque near the Twin Towers where airplane landing gear was discovered

The medical examiner's office plans to search for Sept. 11 human remains in an alley behind a mosque near the World Trade Center where airplane landing gear was suddenly discovered.

The rusted landing gear piece is believed to be from one of two hijacked airliners that decimated the twin towers in 2001, exploding with fiery debris and killing thousands of people.

On Saturday, yellow police tape blocked access to a metal door that leads to the hidden alley behind 51 Park Place.

The chief medical examiner's spokeswoman, Ellen Borakove, said the area first will be tested as part of a standard health and safety evaluation for possible toxicity. She said sifting for human remains is to begin Tuesday morning.

Retired fire department deputy chief Jim Riches, who lost his son in the terror attack, visited the site on Saturday. He said the latest news left him feeling "upset."

"The finding of this landing gear," he said, "just goes to show that we need federal people in here to do a comprehensive, full search of lower Manhattan to make sure that we don't get any more surprises," as happened in 2007 when body parts were discovered in nearby sewers and manhole covers.

Of the nearly 3,000 victims, Riches noted, about 1,000 families have never recovered any remains...

Iraq: Gunmen kill 10, including five soldiers near main Sunni protest camp, the latest in a wave of violence

Gunmen killed 10 people in Iraq, including five soldiers near the main Sunni protest camp west of Baghdad, the latest in a wave of violence that has raised fears the country faces a new round of sectarian bloodshed.

The attack on the army intelligence soldiers in the former insurgent stronghold of Ramadi drew a quick response from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose Shiite-led government has been the target of rising Sunni anger over perceived mistreatment.

The attackers stopped a vehicle carrying the soldiers near the protest camp, prompting a gunbattle that left the five soldiers dead and two of the attackers wounded, police officials said.

Al-Maliki vowed his government would not keep silent over the killing of the soldiers. Iraqi officials have repeatedly claimed that insurgent groups, such as al-Qaida in Iraq and supporters of former Iraqi leader Saddam regime, have infiltrated the Sunni demonstrations.

"I call upon the peaceful protesters to expel the criminals targeting military and police," al-Maliki said in a statement posted on his official website.

Authorities announced a curfew in the whole province of Anbar. They also gave the protest organizers in Ramadi, the provincial capital, a 24-hours deadline to hand over the gunmen responsible for killing the soldiers or face a "firm response," said Maj. Gen. Mardhi Mishhin al-Mahalawi, the army's Anbar operations chief.

Members of Iraq's Muslim Sunni minority have been rallying for the past four months in several Iraqi cities to protest what they describe as unfair treatment by al-Maliki's government.

Tensions spiked earlier this week when fighting broke out in the northern town of Hawija during a security crackdown on a protest encampment. That provoked a series of clashes nationwide that left more than 170 people dead over the past five days...

Pakistan: Third major attack on political parties in Karachi this week, at least 11 people killed and 45 injured

The corner meeting, which ANP General Secretary Bashir Jan was to address, was to take place in an empty plot in Quaid-e-Awan Colony around 9:45 pm. As soon as Bashir’s car approached the venue a bomb exploded, killing both onlookers and party workers. Bashir Jan himself was unhurt.

Predictably, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) quickly claimed responsibility for the attack. “We have carried out two attacks on ANP candidates one in the morning and another on Friday night,” said TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan.

Police Surgeon Sindh Dr Aslam Pechuho put the death toll at 11, saying women were also among the dead.

The deceased include Dr Azizuddin – brother of Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai – and two dispensers who worked at his clinic. Dr Azizuddin, a father of five, has been running his dispensary in the area for thirty years. His 10-year-old grandson was also killed in the attack.

Investigators believe the blast might have been caused by a remote-controlled device planted in a high-roof vehicle parked outside the plot.

“Right now we are only guessing as to how the blast took place and who is behind this act,” Deputy Inspector General (District West) Zafar Bukhari told The Express Tribune. However, other police officials say the bomb may have been planted in a rickshaw.

Bukhari estimated that approximately 15 kilogrammes of explosives was used in the device, given the intensity of the blast. Asked about the security arrangements for the meeting, he claimed that the police had not been informed of the ANP’s plans.

He added that according to the code of conduct, political parties should inform the police 72 hours in advance of holding a procession, a corner meeting or a rally. In this case, he says the ANP did not inform the police of this event in time...
Another day of mourning: Reign of terror
The Express Tribune, April 27, 2013

Egypt: Since 2011 uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak out of power, intimidation and violence against Christians grows

An alleged romance between an Egyptian Muslim college student and a Coptic Christian man heightened sectarian tension on Friday in a small rural Egyptian town where police fired tear gas to disperse stone-throwing Muslims who surrounded a Coptic church in anger over the inter-faith relationship, a security official and priest said.

The Muslim protesters accuse Saint Girgis Church of helping 21-year-old Rana el-Shazli, who is believed to have converted to Christianity, flee to Turkey with a Coptic Christian man.

Stories of conversions to Christianity or Islam, inter-faith romances and the illegal building and expanding of churches have caused a series of deadly sectarian incidents in recent years. Since Islamists rose to power after Egypt's 2011 uprising that forced out longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, Christians have grown more fearful of intimidation and violence from fellow Egyptians, especially ultraconservative Salafis.

The alleged romance has been fueling sectarian tension for nearly two months in Wasta, a rural town in Beni Suef province, about 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of Cairo.

Muslims have attacked churches there and forced Christians to close their shops for nearly eight days last month and members of the Christian man's family have been arrested, including his mother and father, after a prosecutor accused them of collaborating in hiding the woman. The woman's family issued an ultimatum for the church to bring her back early this month, but when it didn't, violence erupted anew.

On Friday, ultraconservative Salafis distributed flyers accusing the church of "proselytizing Christianity," according to a copy of the flyer posted on a social networking site. It called on residents to rally inside a mosque located meters (yards) from the church to "rescue a Muslim soul and bring her back from the deviant path."

Father Bishoy Youssef of the church said he heard loudspeakers from the adjacent mosque calling on worshippers to join a march to the church for the sake of the girl. He said churches in Wasta had been forewarned about "threats to attack the churches" and scheduled early morning masses that would be finished before Friday prayers at the mosque.

"God protect us," he said. "We have nothing to do with this whole story,"

Clashes erupted when protesters hurled stones at security forces that had cordoned off streets leading to the church. Police fired tear gas, according to a security official, who added that police arrested five people, including the girl's uncle. According to the security official at the scene, two people were injured by gunshots and others suffered breathing problems from the tear gas...
Muslim-Christian relationship fuels row in Egypt
Associated Press, April 27, 2013

Indonesia: Muslim serving 19-years in prison for beheading three Christian schoolgirls escapes while visiting sick wife

A militant serving a 19-year prison sentence for beheading three Christian schoolgirls has escaped while visiting his sick wife and is still at large, Indonesian police said Friday.

National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said Basri, 36, fled from his house in the Central Sulawesi town of Poso last week when a guard who escorted him from jail to the home left him unguarded for several hours.

Basri, who like many Indonesians uses a single name, was sentenced to 19 years in jail in 2007 for the beheadings and a series of attacks that terrorized Poso, where a Muslim-Christian conflict killed at least 1,000 people from 1998 to 2002.

"When the guard came to take him back to the prison, he found that Basri was no longer at his house," Amar said. "He is still at large."

Police are searching for Basri, whom Amar described as a "dangerous militant," and are investigating why he was escorted by only one guard.

"We call on people who know his whereabouts to report to authorities immediately," Amar said.

Basri, who was arrested along with five other militants in February 2007, admitted to beheading one of the three girls in late 2005 as they walked to school along a quiet jungle path overlooking Poso.

In an interview with The Associated Press days after their arrests, Basri said he and the other militants learned weapons handling and bomb making from members of the al-Qaida-linked Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah...
Indonesian Militant Serving 19 Years Escapes
The New York Times, April 26, 2013

Nigeria: Over 400 churches destroyed or closed down, thousands of Christian businesses ruined, and over 1,500 Christians dead

The Christian Elders Forum of Northern States, CEFNS, yesterday called on the Federal Government to rebuild the over 400 churches destroyed by Boko Haram insurgency in the region.

This is even as the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, yesterday sent a high powered team of senior officers to Baga, Borno State, to assess the recent military operation in the town.

Also, six policemen and five members of the Boko Haram Islamic sect were killed in fresh clashes in Borno and Yobe states yesterday.

The NESCEF leaders, who met at their annual conference in Abuja, also called on President Goodluck Jonathan not to grant state pardon or amnesty to the Boko Haram sect.

In a communiqué signed by its Chairman and Secretary- General, Evangelist Mathew Owojaiye and Mr. Iliya Yusuf respectively, the NOSCEF said the present atmosphere of insecurity facing the nation would not give Nigerians credible elections in 2015.

The forum added that the Federal Government must rebuild the churches destroyed by the insurgents in the North, while it must also compensate Christian victims before any pardon could be granted.

The communiqué reads in part: “Over 400 churches have been destroyed or closed down. Christians are now being individually targeted and eliminated. Thousands of Christian businesses ruined, over 1,500 Christians, innocent lives wiped out. Why is government not talking about pardon to Boko Haram but amnesty? There should be no discussion of amnesty to Boko Haram until all the victims have been adequately compensated.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence has sent assessment team to Borno State to find out what happened in the border town of Baga last weekend in which close to 200 persons were killed in clashes between soldiers and Boko Haram insurgents.

President Jonathan had said on Wednesday that soldiers found guilty of committing atrocities will be punished...

France: Man claiming to belong to al-Qaeda goes on terror rampage near popular beach, shoots three, kills two

Three people were shot dead in southern France last night as a man claiming to belong to al-Qaeda went on the rampage near a popular Mediterranean beach.

Two of the victims, both men, were killed as they did DIY work outside their homes in Istres, near Marseilles. A third man was shot in his car. Another person was injured as the killer fired at passing vehicles.

The gunman, aged about 20, was arrested within minutes near Romaniquette beach. Police said he was known to them as a petty offender and appeared to be mentally unstable...

Turkey: Head of Adana’s Health and Education Associations for Autistic Children says atheism was a form of autism

Autism associations around Turkey have reacted angrily after the head of Adana’s Health and Education Associations for Autistic Children reportedly said autistic children were “atheists due to a lack of a section for faith in their brains.”

“Autistic children do not know how to believe in God because they do not have a section for faith in their brains,” sociologist Fehmi Kaya reportedly said. “That is why they don’t know how to pray, how to believe in God. It is necessary to create awareness [or religion] in these children through methods of therapy.”

He also reportedly said atheism was a form of autism.

Kaya’s statement caused a strong backlash in the country, with individuals and associations speaking out against his remarks. The president for the Association of Protection of Autistic Children (ODER), Engin Güngör, told the Hürriyet Daily News that the remarks were “unfortunate.”

“I do not know what purpose the statement serves,” Güngör said, adding that the media should also be sensitive toward the exposure of such statements.

“This is a statement that could upset around 3.5 to 4 million people,” Güngör said. “We believe that the press should feel the responsibility of that as well, and should look better into these things before publishing them.”

Kaya told the Daily News that his remarks had been taken out of context, with news reports “fixating on autism.”

“The message I wished to give was not about autism and atheism, but to highlight that these children cannot communicate, cannot form empathy, live in their own worlds and are isolated. I meant that we should take them out of their isolation with proper therapy methods,” he said.

Kaya said development came in layers and that as autistic children developed further socially and mentally, a dimension of faith would also be developed.

“I meant that they were disabled, in a way, like a hearing disability, because they are not aware of why people believe. I did not say that all autistic people are atheists,” Kaya said, adding that faith would “normally” exist in kids.

Therapy sessions 'to make believers’

Kaya also said they would turn autistic children into believers through sessions that would be offered for free at therapy centers in the future.

The sessions, which have been confirmed by the Culture Houses of Adana’s Yüreğir Municipality, are set to start in June and will be able to serve over 30 children. The same houses will also offer further therapy sessions for children with disabilities.

When asked whether or not the houses aimed at turning autistic children into believers, a Culture House official confirmed the matter, but Kaya denied such objectives.

“Every child understands when you tell him or her to fear God, but an autistic child will not,” Kaya told the Daily News. “Once he starts to develop normally, belief will come in time. We do not have the idea of creating a section for faith in their brains.”
Likening of autistic kids to atheists causes fury
Hurriyet Daily News, April 26, 2013

PA: Palestinian journalists intimidate their Israeli colleagues with threats and acts of violence

Palestinian journalists have declared an intifada against their Israeli colleagues.

In recent weeks, Israeli journalists who cover Palestinian affairs have been facing increased threats from Palestinian reporters.

On a number of occasions, the threats included acts of violence against the Israeli journalists, particularly in Ramallah.

Human rights organizations and groups claiming to defend freedom of media have failed to condemn the campaign of intimidation waged by Palestinian journalists against their Israeli fellow-journaists.

It is one thing when governments and dictators go after journalists, but a completely different thing when journalists start targeting their counterparts.

An Israeli journalist had his microphone damaged during an assault, while another was thrown out of a press conference. Behind the two incidents were Palestinian journalists, angered by the presence of Israelis in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities.

The threats and harassment came as more than 200 Palestinian journalists signed a petition, for the first time ever, calling on the Palestinian Authority to ban Israeli correspondents from operating in its territories "without permission."

The Palestinian Authority, for its part, has complied, issuing instructions requiring Israeli journalists to obtain permission from its Ministry of Information before entering Palestinian cities.

Palestinian Authority officials and journalists later explained that the ban does not apply to some journalists working for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz and who report on "Palestinian suffering."

The Palestinian journalists campaigning against their Israeli colleagues have justified their action by saying that Israeli authorities do not allow them to work freely inside Israel. They also accuse the Israeli authorities of refusing to issue them with [Israeli] government press cards.

If anything, these claims represent a hypocritical approach.

In recent years, Palestinian journalists have strongly opposed to "normalization" with Israelis, including meetings with Israeli colleagues. Some Palestinian journalists who violated the ban and met with Israeli counterparts were denounced as traitors and expelled from the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate.

So while Palestinian journalists are opposed to "normalization" with Israel, they are at the same time demanding that Israeli authorities grant them permission to work inside Israel.

Even more, the Palestinian journalists are demanding that Israel provide them with press cards issued by none other than the Israeli government.

Won't the Palestinian journalists be violating their own rules and ideology once they accept press cards issued by the Israeli government? And if they enter Israel and meet with Israelis, won't they also be acting against their own boycott campaign?

What is disturbing is that foreign journalists based in Israel have not come out against the campaign of intimidation against their Israeli colleagues. Could it be because these foreign journalists have also been facing threats and want to stay on good terms with Palestinian reporters, and will also agree to report only on "Palestinian suffering"?

Gone are the days when Israeli and Palestinian journalists used to work together and exchange information on a daily basis, in the days before the peace process started.

Today, there is a new generation of Palestinian journalists who have evidently been radicalized to a point where any meeting with an Israeli is being viewed as a "crime." This is the result of anti-Israel incitement by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, especially over the past two decades.

Aware of the growing radicalism of Palestinian journalists, the Palestinian Authority, together with the American security detail, banned a large number of Palestinian journalists from covering the visit of US President Barack Obama to Ramallah last month...

Saudi Arabia: Cleric calls for Iraqi terrorist groups to kill shi'ite women and children to cause more terror and fear

The Saudi Wahhabi cleric and the faculty member at the Islamic University of Imam Muhammad bin Saud, Dr. Saad al-Durihim, called Iraqi Mujahideen (al Qaeda terrorist groups) to kill Shiite women and children in order to cause more terror and fear among Iraqi people.

Dr. Saad al-Durihim, in his Twitter called Mujahideen to increase cruelty and murder or even captive women and children to scare more people.

Following the publication of these writings by the Saudi Wahhabi cleric in Twitter, the flood of criticism followed and some even called him a criminal.

In response to these extremist and sectarian expressions, the writer of al-Medina newspaper wrote, I take Allah as witness that really those who insult Islam are not Christians, Jews or Zarathustras but like these extremists who invite to killing and bloodsheds.

The writer in Akkaz newspaer, Abdullah Bin Bakhit, criticized al-Durihim and wrote: "When this person go free without any trial, we should not be surprise that terrorists live in Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi writer, Muhammad al Omar said in his twitter that "Offender Saad al-Durihim ordered to kill Shiite women and children but we had never seen in the commandments of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him"...

UK: Three men, including a Muslim convert, have been jailed for preparing acts of terrorism

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

Richard Dart was jailed for six years, Imran Mahmood received nine years and nine months and Jahangir Alom was jailed for four years and six months.

The London-based trio, who pleaded guilty in March, discussed targeting the town of Royal Wootton Bassett.

The judge said the three were "committed to acts of terrorism".

They were arrested in the capital city weeks before the Olympic Games.

'For Allah'

Dart, 30, of Broadway, Ealing, west London, and Mahmood, 22, from Dabbs Hill Lane, Northolt, west London, were both born in the UK. Alom, 26, of Abbey Road, Stratford, was born in Bangladesh but is a British citizen.

Mr Justice Simon told them they held "radical Islamist beliefs and have shown yourselves to be committed to acts of terrorism".

Dart refused to stand when he was sentenced, and said: "I don't wish to stand up, I believe ruling and judging is only for Allah."

The judge said that they were all "committed fundamentalists" who would have been prepared to kill.

Mahmood and Dart were both given extended sentences, meaning that they will serve two-thirds of their prison terms rather than half, and they will spend five years on licence.

He told Dart and Mahmood: "I'm satisfied to the required criminal standard that neither of you had ruled out an attack in the United Kingdom, and that you, Mahmood, were looking at arming yourself with a bomb."

After the sentencing, the Metropolitan Police said the convictions followed a painstaking investigation by the Met's counter-terrorism command and security services that had uncovered secret conversations about potential attacks in the UK and abroad.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Osborne, head of the Met's counter-terrorism command, said the investigation had involved a "mixture of dedicated, diligent traditional detective work combined with the latest technology and computer techniques".

He said the trio were "dangerous men".

"This case serves as a classic example of how terrorists live in our midst while preparing their acts and their determination to travel overseas to train before returning to the UK," he said.
. . .
'Object of suspicion'

All three had been stopped at airports while travelling to and from Pakistan.

When Mahmood was stopped at Manchester in 2010, traces of explosives were found on two rucksacks that he had with him.

He later admitted that he had received rudimentary training in explosives while in Pakistan.

Dart, who changed his name to Salahuddin al-Britani, became involved in extremism after moving from his home town of Weymouth, Dorset, to east London and fraternising with radical Muslim Anjem Choudary.

His beliefs were brought into the spotlight as part of a BBC television documentary My Brother The Islamist, by his stepbrother Robb Leech.

Alom joined the Territorial Army in 2006 as part of the G Company 7th Battalion the Rifles, but did not complete his training due to medical reasons.

The following year he became a PCSO but left the job in September 2009.

Mr Justice Simon said that he and Dart were "the object of suspicion" for their fellow radicals, and may have felt the need to prove themselves.

Alom had his own contact with a fourth man, Mohammed Tariq Nasar, a Briton now living in Pakistan, to try to get terrorist training, it is claimed. Mr Nasar has not been charged with any offence.

The trio were arrested on 5 July last year just before the start of the Olympics, and were charged on 18 July.

US: 'I'm willing to die for Islam' Tamerlan Tsarnaev's texts to his mother reveal he was prepared to die for jihad

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

A disturbing flurry of text messages has revealed that Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev was willing to lay down his life for his Muslim faith.

It's the latest in a series of new revelations about the elder Tsarnaev brother, who was killed in a shootout with police in the early morning hours of Friday.

Little is known about Tamerlan in the months before the attacks, but his brother has confessed that they were self-radicalized and angry over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fox News reported that in 2011, he sent text messages to his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, indicating that he was willing to die for Islam.

Around the same time he sent those texts, suspicions were brewing about the 26-year-old former boxer.

On Wednesday, U.S. officials described to the AP what the government knew about Tsarnaev since he was first placed on the intelligence community's radar 18 months ago.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the ongoing investigation. Russia's internal security service, the FSB, sent information to the FBI about Tamerlan Tsarnaev on March 4, 2011.

The Russians told the FBI that Tsarnaev, an ethnically Chechen Russian immigrant living in the Boston area, was a follower of radical Islam and had changed drastically since 2010.

Because of the subsequent FBI inquiry, Tsarnaev's name was added to a Homeland Security Department database used by U.S. officials at the border to help screen people coming in and out of the U.S...

Pakistan: Man’s hands cut off over a theft allegation, to 'punish' and 'set an example for other robbers'

The amputee was taken to Dera Ghazi Khan district headquarters hospital, where doctors later said he would likely survive.

Sakhi Sarwar police said that Muhammad Tufail, 35, a resident of Chak Nangar, was allegedly caught red- handed stealing from Muhammad Ishaq’s and Fida Hussain’s houses- two compounds in a family home.

They said four men, including the house owners, took him to Choti Bala area, where they tied him up and cut off both his hands. Some passers-by later took him to his house, from where he was taken to the DHQ hospital.

Dr Haroon Bilal, in charge of the emergency ward, told The Express Tribune that Tufail was “out of danger” now, but would be kept under observation for at least three days.

Police said Ishaq and Hussain had been arrested, but their accomplices Nazeer Ahmed and Ata Muhammad were missing. They said Ishaq and Hussain had confessed to the chopping saying they wanted to “punish Tufail and set an example for other obbers”. Station House Officer Muhammad Ayub said that initial investigation had revealed that eight years ago, the same men had accused Tufail of having illicit relationship with one of their cousins. He said a panchayat had declared Tufail innocent two years later. The woman’s family had allegedly kept threatening him with dire consequences. He said they had declared Tufail kala (adulterer).

The SHO said that an FIR was registered on the complaint of Tufail’s son Abdul Ghaffar under Sections 334 (intention to hurt a person), 148 (armed with …weapon) and 149 (unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution). He said no robbery case had been traced against the victim during initial investigation. He said the opponent’s allegations were also being investigated.

Ghaffar told The Express Tribune that he and his family were now receiving death threats for reporting the incident to the police and telling them about their previous allegations...

Indonesia: Jakarta police hunt mosque caretaker for sexually assaulting 14-year old girl

The Jakarta Police said on Wednesday that they were hunting a Pondok Cabe, South Tangerang mosque caretaker identified only as MF, 25, for alleged sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl identified only as AIS.

“The South Jakarta Police are now hunting the suspect who fled after the case came to light,” Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto told reporters on Wednesday, adding that the police had questioned six witnesses, including the victim herself, who lives not far from the suspect’s house.

The police said the victim’s family testified that MF had allegedly sexually abused AIS on three occasions since January, once in his room located in the mosque compound after a community project...

Spain: Police arrest 2 suspected terrorists with links to al-Qaeda, 'profile' similar to suspects in Boston Marathon attacks

Spanish police arrested two suspected terrorists with apparent links to an al Qaeda-affiliated group Tuesday but said they had no indication of an imminent attack.

The Interior Ministry identified the suspects as Nou Mediouni, 23, from Algeria, who was arrested in the north-central city of Zaragoza, and Hassan El Jaaouani, 52, from Morocco, who was detained in the southeastern city of Murcia.

Spanish police worked with their counterparts in France and Morocco to carry out the latest arrests, an Interior Ministry statement said.

The two suspects have a "profile" that is similar to the two suspects in the Boston Marathon attacks, the statement said. Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz told reporters that police consider them "lone wolves," like the Boston suspects.

However, the similarity is based only on how the two suspects in Spain were "radicalized," by going to online forums and chat rooms, and also in the suspects' alleged interest in pulling from the Internet information on bomb-making, said an Interior Ministry spokesman, who by custom is not identified.

The pair, who are from different countries, are not brothers and, unlike the two suspects in the Boston Marathon attacks, have no roots in the Caucasus region, he said.

But Fernandez said one of the suspects recently praised the Boston attacks. A second Interior Ministry spokesman said that was the younger suspect, Mediouni.

Both of the suspects in Spain are unemployed, the second Interior Ministry spokesman said. Mediouni, arrested in Zaragoza, studied computer sciences but had not worked professionally in that field, the ministry statement said.

The two are suspected members of a radical cell close to the terrorist organization al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Interior Ministry said.

The two men have been under surveillance as part of an operation lasting more than a year run in cooperation with France and Morocco, the Spanish Interior Ministry said.

The Madrid train bombings in March 2004, which killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800, led to a sharp increase in Spain's fight against Islamic terrorism. The courts convicted 14 Islamic militants for their role in the bombings, along with four Spaniards convicted for trafficking in explosives used in the attacks.

Since then, authorities have told CNN that Spain has assigned hundreds of additional police officers to investigate Islamic terrorism and added dozens of Arabic translators, so authorities will be able to understand communications and threats. Around 400 suspected Islamic militants have been arrested in Spain since March 2004, although many have been released by judges for lack of evidence.

Mali extremist contacts alleged

Mediouni was identified and recruited by Mali-based members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb through his interest in radical Islamist Internet sites, the Interior Ministry statement alleges.

He was given specific instructions for a trip to a jihadist camp in northern Mali led by the group, the Interior Ministry claims, but was unable to meet with AQIM leaders because of the heightened security presence in the area.
. . .
The arrests in Spain come days before the Madrid Marathon on Sunday.

About 26,000 runners are expected to take part in a marathon, half-marathon and 10-kilometer race, to be run at the same time. Security has been increased in light of the attacks in Boston, authorities said.

Tunisia: Woman stabs two-month old daughter to death to punish husband for forcing her to wear the niqab

A Tunisian woman stabbed her two-month old daughter to death to punish her husband for forcing her to wear the niqab, or full-face Islamic veil, Arabic newspaper Al Jomhouria reported Wednesday.

The family lives in M'hamdia, in the Ben Arous governorate.

The woman confessed the murder to police, explaining why she did it.

Canada: Via Rail terror plot suspect says Criminal Code should not apply to him because it's "not a holy book"

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

One of two men accused of an al-Qaeda-directed plot to derail a Via Rail passenger train appeared to question the authority of a Toronto court on Wednesday, saying that the Criminal Code should not apply to him because it's "not a holy book."

Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, asked to address the court and was warned to be careful with what he said because it could be used in future appearances.

"All of those conclusions was taken out based on Criminal Code and all of us we know that this Criminal Code is not a holy book," Esseghaier said. "It's just written by a set of creations and the creations they're not perfect because only the Creator is perfect.

"We cannot rely on the conclusions taken out from these judgments."

The judge thanked him for his comment but told him to "save that for another court."

Esseghaier, who the Tunisian Embassy in Ottawa confirmed Wednesday is from that North African country, was represented by duty counsel but said he did not want a lawyer and would like to represent himself.

He was charged with five offences including conspiracy to commit murder for the benefit of a terrorist group, conspiracy to interfere with transportation facilities for the benefit of a terrorist group, and participation in a terrorist group.

The judge ordered Esseghaier remanded into custody until his next appearance on May 23, the same day his co-accused, 35-year-old Raed Jaser, is scheduled to be back in court.

Esseghaier was also told not to communicate with Jaser...

Egypt: Man honor-kills cheating wife, chops her body into pieces and feeds them to the dogs

An Egyptian murdered his wife, then chopped her body into pieces and fed them to dogs to hide the crime because she was allegedly involved in illicit relationships with young men of the locality.

“Yes, I killed my wife and chopped her body into small pieces and fed it the dogs to hide the crime,” said 50-year old husband Khalid M.

Khalid told Al Youm Al Sabea’a newspaper that she was involved in illicit relationships with young men of the area and she also prevented him from exercising his marital rights.
. . .
“I also found vulgar video clips in her mobile phone. Not only that, I discovered that she went out after I fell asleep and returned in the morning. At that moment, I decided to kill her and I waited till she fell asleep. I went to the kitchen and brought a knife and slit her throat.”

After he was sure that she’s dead, he brought a hacksaw and cut off her hands and feet and then separated her head from the body.

“I put her body parts in plastic bags and then dumped them in a canal near the village where we live. I went back to the house, cleaned the place and removed blood stains. I stayed there till the police arrived the next evening and arrested me. I am not guilty as I defended my honour; and I don’t regret what I did,” he said.

The daily said Kafr El Zayat Police Station had received reports of a woman's body parts found in bags in the town.

Police rushed to the scene of the crime and began investigation. It started investigating the report of any missing woman in the area. Police found that Khalid’s wife was missing from home.

Police arrested the husband who admitted to killing his wife and the case has been referred to the public prosecution.

Saudi Arabia: Country will retain its longstanding ban on non-Muslim places of worship

Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia will retain its longstanding ban on non-Muslim places of worship, Justice Minister Mohammed al-Issa said in comments reported by the Saudi media on Wednesday.

As Saudi Arabia is "home to the Muslim holy places, it does not allow the establishment of non-Muslim places of worship," Al-Hayat newspaper quoted Issa as telling European MPs in Brussels.

Saudi Arabia, home to the holy Kaaba -- the cube-shaped structure at the Grand Mosque in Mecca towards which Muslims worldwide pray -- has come in for repeated criticism for its ban on non-Muslim places of worship...

Qatar: Influential Muslim cleric boycotts inter-faith dialogue conference, refusing to sit next to Jews

Influential Muslim cleric Yousuf Al Qaradawi boycotted an inter-faith dialogue conference that opened in Doha on Tuesday, refusing to sit in the meeting also attended by Jewish representatives, a local daily reported. “I decided not to participate so I wouldn’t sit at the same platform alongside Jews who still violate Palestine and destroy mosques and as long as the Palestinian issue has not been resolved,” Al Qaradawi told the Al Arab daily of Qatar.
. . .
The International Union of Muslim Scholars which he heads is, however, represented at the conference which brings together 500 personalities from 75 countries representing the three monotheistic religions.

France: Escaped mental patient cuts the throat of a rabbi while screaming 'Allahu Akbar'

An escapee from a psychiatric institution slashed a rabbi and his son with a box-cutter on Tuesday, prompting witnesses to tackle and subdue the attacker after a chase through a Paris synagogue, officials said. The rabbi, who is in his late 40s, was recovering from surgery for a neck injury and his 18-year-old son sustained lesser injuries in the attack north of a touristic shopping area near Paris’ gilded Opera Garnier, according to police and judicial officials and Richard Prasquier, who heads CRIF, France’s largest umbrella organization of Jewish groups.
. . .
Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office, said the two victims had been wearing Jewish skullcaps, and the attacker was detained after a chase through the synagogue. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents worldwide, said in a statement that the assailant screamed “Allah-u-Akbar” — or “God is great” — during the attack...

UK: 25,000 Muslims rally to call on government to introduce laws banning insulting Islam under the garb of freedom of speech

Up to 25,000 British Pakistani men, women and children from across the UK gathered in Aston Park here to express their love for Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him) and to call on the British government to introduce legislation that bars Islamophobes from insulting Islam under the garb of the freedom of speech.

The participants, who also travelled from several parts of European cities, were led in a peaceful and colourful mile-long march by Hazrat Peer Alauddin Siddiqui. This is the fourth consecutive gathering for the biggest Melaad-un-Nabi (PBUH) of British Pakistanis in Britain but this year it was dedicated to “protect the honour and legacy of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH)”. Speakers included interfaith leaders from Christian, Hindu, Sikh, and Jewish religions and parliamentarians from Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats. Sardar Attique Khan, former Azad Kashmir prime minister, was the chief guest of the rally.

Hazrat Peer Alauddin Siddiqui, who is a renowned Sufi scholar, told Geo News: “Thousands have come together to show peacefully to the western world that the production and promotion of a recent film insulting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has caused hurt to Muslims all over the world. We are a peaceful community and we will do everything to protect peace and respect for all on equal basis. It’s not fair that some people insult Islam everyday and preach hatred through their actions and words but the lack of legislation encourages such elements. We want to tell our government that we welcome debate and constructive criticism of our religion but insults are unacceptable and inflammatory language is contributing to the rise of extremism amongst youth in western countries where youth mistakenly believe that the West hates Islam and Muslims.”

He announced that a rally of tens of thousands of Muslims will be held soon in Hyde Park to profess loyalty to Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) as well as to condemn the crudely made “Innocence of Muslims” movie which was recently released in the US and caused outrage in the Islamic world, including leading to a ban on Youtube in Pakistan.

Peer Siddiqui told the audience that relations between Islamic and Western countries have improved in recent years and these years need to be strengthened but that is possible if all religions are respected and there should be law in place to ensure that Islam and Muslims are not singled out...

Syria: Western backed rebels 'cut off my finger' says victim of kidnapping who was held for 53 days (video)

As Syria's war-torn towns and cities descend into increasing lawlessness, civilians caught between the warring sides can now add kidnap to their growing list of concerns.

Jeremy Bowen has been talking to a victim in Damascus, Bassam Wahbh, who was held for 53 days by the rebel Free Syrian Army.

During the ransom talks, Mr Wahbh's captors cut off his little finger and sent it, along with a video showing what they had done, to his family.

Canada: Toronto terror suspects were religious men, according to colleagues and neighbours

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

Accused terror plotter Raed Jaser left a Qur’an unannounced for his Toronto neighbour. Chiheb Esseghaier’s Quebec colleagues say his beliefs became increasingly hardline.

Raed Jaser’s neighbour remembers the Qur’an.

Small with a green cover, it was left in his mailbox one day last fall, unannounced and unexplained, a few months after he and his family moved to Cherokee Blvd., near Finch Ave. and Hwy. 404.

The man, who asked not to be identified to protect his family, said he put the Qur’an back on his neighbour’s car.

He never learned his neighbour’s name until more than a dozen RCMP officers arrived unannounced at his home on Monday around 3 p.m. — the same time as a scheduled news conference.

The Mounties showed him a photo of the man next door, the same man whose Qur’an he had returned.

That man, now believed to be Jaser, 35, of Toronto, is suspected, along with Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, of hatching a terror plot to derail a VIA Rail train. Their arrests Monday by the RCMP put an end to the alleged scheme.

“I was OK, but now it’s scary because I saw the news,” the neighbour said over the phone while officers questioned his family in his home about anything they’d noticed...

US: Boston marathon bomber tells investigators his brother "wanted to defend Islam from attack"

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has told investigators his older brother Tamerlan was the driving force behind last week's attack and that no international terrorist groups were behind them, a U.S. government source said Monday.

Preliminary interviews with Tsarnaev indicate the two brothers fit the classification of self-radicalized jihadists, the source said. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, wounded and held in a Boston hospital, has said his brother -- who was killed early Friday -- wanted to defend Islam from attack, according to the source.

The government source cautioned that the interviews were preliminary, and that Tsarnaev's account needs to be checked out and followed up on by investigators.

And a federal law enforcement official told CNN that while investigators have seen nothing yet to indicate the suspects were working with anyone else, a lot of work remains before they can say confidently that no others were involved. That official would not comment on any motive or specifics on what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has communicated to officials.

The 19-year-old has been charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death. He was heavily sedated and on a ventilator at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, but was "alert, mentally competent and lucid" during the brief initial court appearance at his bedside on Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler found.
Source: Boston bomb suspect says brother was brains behind attack
Jake Tapper and Matt Smith, CNN, April 23, 2013

US: Officials confirm Boston marathon bombing motivated by Islam, surviving terrorist interrogated and charged

The news comes as it was revealed the brothers suspected of bombing the Boston bombing appear to have been motivated by a radical brand of Islam, but were not apparently connected to any Islamist terrorist groups.

US officials have interrogated and charged the surviving brother with crimes that could bring the death penalty.

The 19-year-old remains in a serious condition with a gunshot wound to his throat and other injuries suffered during his attempted getaway.

His older brother, Tamerlan, 26, died on Friday after a fierce gun battle with police.

Tsarnaev was charged in his hospital bed with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.

He was accused of joining with his brother in setting off the shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs that killed three people a week ago.

The brothers, ethnic Chechens from Russia who had been living in the US for about a decade, practised Islam.

Two US officials said preliminary evidence from the younger man's interrogation suggests the brothers were motivated by religious extremism, but were apparently not involved with Islamist terrorist organisations...

Syria: Militants abduct two of the most senior Christian clerics as they carried out humanitarian work in Aleppo

Militants in a rebel-held area of northern Syria have abducted two bishops travelling from the Turkish border back to the city of Aleppo.

The kidnapping was reported by Syrian state media and confirmed by a member of the official opposition leadership.

Yohanna Ibrahim is head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo and Boulos Yaziji leads the Greek Orthodox Church in the city.

They are the most senior Christian clerics caught up directly in the war.

It was not immediately clear who had kidnapped them.

Christians made up about 10% of the mainly Sunni Muslim country's population before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began just over two years ago.

According to the UN, at least 70,000 people have been killed overall in the civil war and more than one million are now living as refugees in neighbouring countries.

'Driver killed'

State TV announced that an "armed terrorist group" had kidnapped the two bishops as they carried out "humanitarian work in Aleppo countryside".

Abdulahad Steifo, a Syriac member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, said the men had been kidnapped on the road to Aleppo from the rebel-held Bab al-Hawa crossing, which is close to the Turkish town of Reyhanli...

Somalia: Muslim militants kill widow of Christian slain for his faith, leaving couple’s five children orphaned

Islamist militants in Somalia have killed the widow of a Christian who was slain for his faith in December, leaving the couple’s five children orphaned, sources said.

Islamic extremist Al Shabaab rebels shot 42-year-old Fartun Omar to death on April 13 in Buulodbarde, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Beledweyne, according to Abdi Aziz Suleiman of Radio Shebelle in Beledweyne. The extremists had been searching for her for several months, as they knew that she was a secret Christian like her late husband, Mursal Isse Siad, sources said.

Siad had been receiving death threats for leaving Islam. After his death, initially Omar fled the area with her five children and at one time had received protection from from African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldiers, sources said.

“A week before she was killed, rumors were flying that the Al Shabaab were looking for her,” one of Omar’s neighbors said.

Due to the threat of persecution, Omar on April 10 decided to leave the central Somalian city of Beledweyne by bus with another neighbor to seek refuge with relatives, the first neighbor said. On reaching Buulobarde, which is controlled by Al Shabaab, militants at a roadblock ordered passengers to disembark and questioned them one by one.

“Unfortunately, she was not cleared by the Al Shabaab,” said the neighbor who accompanied her. “I only heard one of them saying, ‘This is the woman whose husband was killed last year. Do not let her in.’”

The other passengers were allowed to board again, and the bus left, with Omar’s neighbor suddenly responsible for caring for her children. The oldest is a 15-year-old girl.

“On April 13, I received news from Beledweyne that a woman in Buulobarde had been killed by the Al Shabaab,” the neighbor said. “Soon I found out that it was Fartun Omar.”

Sources said Omar was found dead on the outskirts of Buulobarde with bullet wounds to her right side.

“The children are in safe hands, and I am trying to look for some of the relatives of Omar,” the neighbor said. “The only problem that I am experiencing at the moment is that the small children are crying for their mother.”

The neighbor added that the children need help meeting their daily needs.

Two unidentified, masked men on Dec. 8, 2012 shot Omar’s 55-year-old husband, Siad, outside his home in Beledweyne, 206 miles (332 kilometers) north of Mogadishu, for leaving Islam, Muslim and Christian sources said. The area was under government control, but Al Shabaab rebels who have vowed to rid the country of Christianity were present in nearby Buulodbarde.

Commentary: Reluctance to blame Islam a sign of our 'maturity', some of us might hope for maturity from terrorists

WALEED Aly, the smiling face of Australian Islam, is an upbeat kind of guy. He remained so last week following the Boston Marathon bombings - not because of the bombings themselves, obviously, but because, as Aly put it: "We're finally maturing in the way we handle terrorism."

Some of us might hope for maturity from terrorists, who prefer bloodthirsty and irrational attacks on innocent targets over any kind of adult reasoning, but that's not going to happen anytime soon.

According to Aly, it's a sign of our increasing "maturity" that we now recognise terrorism as a "perpetual irritant, and that while it is tragic and emotionally lacerating, it kills relatively few people and is not any kind of existential threat".

Three people were killed in Boston due to irritants. Another 14 will endure the perpetual irritation of losing one or more limbs. By last Friday, 57 remained in hospital suffering emotional laceration to their faces and bodies. Hey, this new mature talk is fun.

Aly was also encouraged by a post-bombing reluctance to blame extremist Islam. "It's possible," he wrote, "that this reticence is a product of the very real suspicion that the perpetrators here are self-styled American patriots. At this point, most analysts are leaning that way."

Indeed they were. But, then again, they always do, right up until the moment they're inevitably proved wrong.

"Let's Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber Is a White American," ran one headline in Salon, over some analysis by David Sirota, a white American himself, as columnist Mark Steyn noted, who "finds it less discomforting to his Princess Fluffy Bunny worldview to see his compatriots as knuckle-dragging nutjobs rather than confront all the apparent real-world contradictions of the diversity quilt".

In Australia, Labor speechwriter Bob Ellis decided that the National Rifle Association (NRA) was most probably behind the attacks. "It seems to me likely that this was not al-Qaeda or a lone madman," wrote Princess Fluffy Bobby, "but more likely, much more likely, the NRA. No responsibility will be claimed by any group, and there will be no second attack; and no culprit ever found."

Ellis previously predicted, ahead of the last state election, that "Labor will hold government, in a perhaps hung parliament, in NSW". Reverse Bob's predictions and he has Rolex reliability.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev could have used some reversing last Thursday night in Boston, where his brother Dzhokhar ran him over during a shootout with police. Sadly for those who wished the bombing suspects would turn out to be rednecks, the only knuckles being dragged were Tamerlan's, behind a stolen SUV.

Imagine if the brothers Tsarnaev were instead Otis and Crandall, Alabama boys who'd driven up to Boston for a final bloody showdown with Barack Obama's liberal America. Right now you'd be reading reports about the menace of fundamentalist Christianity.Alas, both Tsarnaev boys were of the Islamic faith, a fact that sends media analysis into "we cannot know" mode.

Recall the Fort Hood slaughter of 2009, when Nidal Malik Hasan screamed "Allahu Akbar" before murdering 13 people. That's a clue right there, but one subsequent piece of mature analysis began with the line: "The motive for the deadly Fort Hood shooting rampage that has left America reeling is still unclear." A Guardian writer dismissed Hasan's Islamic vow: "My understanding is that it's something Arab people often shout before doing something or other. It's used in many different situations." Such as opening fire on infidels.

Hasan was 39 at the time of his motiveless attack, which should give pause to Sunrise presenter and apparent terrorism expert Andrew O'Keefe. "When you look back over ... the history of terrorism in the United States, the common link is not Islam. It's young men," O'Keefe said on Saturday.

Why, O'Keefe has cracked the case wide open! September 11 ringleader Mohamed Atta: just 33. Fellow 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour: only 29. Khalid al-Mihdhar: a mere lad of 26, the same age as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was wearing explosives and SUV tyre marks when he was converted from young man to dead irritant.

The usual next step in any terrorism talk seeking to evade harsh views of Islam is to spread the blame. Sunrise host Sam Armytage asked guest Keith Suter. "Why would someone who pretty much has had an American education and upbringing perform an act of terrorism like this?" Suter's response: "This is the big mystery. Why do these people end up getting radicalised? Is it something about living in the local culture?" Yep. It's still America's fault.

The Boston Globe's Kevin Cullen was on radio the morning after the big Tsarnaev hunt: "A caller came on the air and started talking about how we've got to look in the mirror and ask what we as Americans have done to create angry young men like this."

There are those young men again. A mature investigation might look at another common factor. Whatever could it be?
Reluctance to blame extremist Islam a sign of our 'maturity'
Tim Blair, The Daily Telegraph, April 22, 2013

“Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return,” UN official justifies Boston bombings, blames America & ‘Tel Aviv’

Richard Falk warns of "worse blowbacks," says “Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return”

In a letter sent today to UN chief Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice (see below), UN Watch demanded the condemnation of top UN Human Rights Council official Richard Falk over his latest remarks blaming the For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click Boston terrorist attacks on U.S. foreign policy and “Tel Aviv.”...

Qatar: Plans to recruit 1.2 million 'slaves' to prepare the 2022 World Cup

Qatar plans to recruit 1.2 million migrant workers for the 2022 World Cup. However, the constant loss of life on construction sites and the cases of slavery are likely to cast a shadow on the organisation of the event, which has already brought in investments worth US$ 2.87 billion.

Recently, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) wrote to FIFA president Seep Blatter. In a press release, the ITUC highlighted "contradictions with Qatari law" that fail "to give workers any real rights or protection from slavery conditions."

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said the visa sponsorship system in Qatar allows the exaction of forced labour. "Under Qatari law, employers have near total control over workers. They alone choose if a worker can change jobs, leave the country or stay in Qatar," she said.

In 2012, the Labour Relations Department in Qatar's Labour Ministry received 6,000 worker complaints. The top concerns facing workers included exploitation, delays in paying wages, violence and work-related safety issues and fatalities.
. . .
Over the past 10 years, millions of Filipinos, Nepalis, Indonesians, Vietnamese and Africans have worked in the construction industry, building palaces, shopping centre, ports, pipelines and infrastructures.

Out of a population of 1.9 million inhabitants, only 300,000 are Qatari citizens.

Nigeria: 185 dead during fierce fighting between Muslim militants and government security forces

Dozens of people have been killed in northern Nigeria during fierce fighting between Islamist militants and government security forces.

A local official, Lawan Kole, said 185 people died, although the AFP news agency quotes a Borno state military spokesman as saying that number is inflated.

The gun battles began Friday in the remote fishing village of Baga, forcing thousands of residents to flee the area.

Locals say the clashes began when troops surrounded a mosque that was allegedly sheltering members of the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram.

A shootout ensued, with militants using heavy weaponry including rocket-propelled grenades. Soldiers and local officials say the militants used civilians as human shields, while residents say soldiers purposefully set fires during the attack.

The high death toll includes civilians, soldiers and extremists but the exact number has not been verified.

The battle lasted for several hours on Friday, but news of the attack did not reach the Nigerian capital until Sunday...
185 Reported Dead in Northern Nigeria Fighting
Voice of America, April 22, 2013

Canada: Islamic terror attack on a passenger train foiled, arrests made in Montreal and Toronto

Canada's authorities say they have arrested and charged two people with conspiring to carry out an "al-Qaeda inspired" attack on a passenger train.

At a news conference, the authorities said the suspects Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, were arrested in Montreal and Toronto on Monday.

They allegedly planned to derail a VIA passenger train in the greater Toronto area. It was not clear when.

The suspects will now appear in court on Tuesday for a bail hearing.

'Strong resolve'

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said the surveillance operation leading to the arrests of the two suspects was "a result of extensive collaborative efforts".

They said the two men were not Canadian citizens and were supported by "al-Qaeda elements in Iran" but there was no evidence of state sponsorship.

Their plan was to derail a train and "kill and hurt people".
. . .
The RCMP also said that FBI agents from the US were involved in the operation to foil the attack...
Accused terror plotter Raed Jaser left a Qur’an unannounced for his Toronto neighbour. Chiheb Esseghaier’s Quebec colleagues say his beliefs became increasingly hardline.

Raed Jaser’s neighbour remembers the Qur’an.

Small with a green cover, it was left in his mailbox one day last fall, unannounced and unexplained, a few months after he and his family moved to Cherokee Blvd., near Finch Ave. and Hwy. 404.

The man, who asked not to be identified to protect his family, said he put the Qur’an back on his neighbour’s car.

He never learned his neighbour’s name until more than a dozen RCMP officers arrived unannounced at his home on Monday around 3 p.m. — the same time as a scheduled news conference.

The Mounties showed him a photo of the man next door, the same man whose Qur’an he had returned.

That man, now believed to be Jaser, 35, of Toronto, is suspected, along with Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, of hatching a terror plot to derail a VIA Rail train. Their arrests Monday by the RCMP put an end to the alleged scheme.

“I was OK, but now it’s scary because I saw the news,” the neighbour said over the phone while officers questioned his family in his home about anything they’d noticed...

One of two men accused of an al-Qaeda-directed plot to derail a Via Rail passenger train appeared to question the authority of a Toronto court on Wednesday, saying that the Criminal Code should not apply to him because it's "not a holy book."

Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, asked to address the court and was warned to be careful with what he said because it could be used in future appearances.

"All of those conclusions was taken out based on Criminal Code and all of us we know that this Criminal Code is not a holy book," Esseghaier said. "It's just written by a set of creations and the creations they're not perfect because only the Creator is perfect.

"We cannot rely on the conclusions taken out from these judgments."

The judge thanked him for his comment but told him to "save that for another court."

Esseghaier, who the Tunisian Embassy in Ottawa confirmed Wednesday is from that North African country, was represented by duty counsel but said he did not want a lawyer and would like to represent himself.

He was charged with five offences including conspiracy to commit murder for the benefit of a terrorist group, conspiracy to interfere with transportation facilities for the benefit of a terrorist group, and participation in a terrorist group.

The judge ordered Esseghaier remanded into custody until his next appearance on May 23, the same day his co-accused, 35-year-old Raed Jaser, is scheduled to be back in court.

Esseghaier was also told not to communicate with Jaser...
Two of the Via Rail terror suspects allegedly contemplated poisoning the air or water before settling on the plot to target a passenger train, according to newly released U.S. court documents.

The fresh details came to light Thursday as American authorities revealed an FBI sting operation scooped up a third man in connection to the foiled plot to derail a train between Toronto and New York.

Ahmed Abassi, a Tunisian citizen who previously lived in Canada, has been charged with two counts of knowingly making false statements in an application to immigration authorities for a green card and work visa, in order to facilitate an act of international terrorism.

"As alleged, Mr. Abassi came to the United States to pursue terrorist activity and support others in the same shameful pursuit. What Mr. Abassi didn't know was that one of his associates, privy to the details of his plan, was an undercover FBI agent," said FBI assistant director-in-charge George Venizelos in a statement.

Authorities arrested Abassi at New York's JFK airport on April 22, the same day Canadian law enforcement nabbed Chiheb Esseghaier, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, of Toronto....

Afghanistan: Girls’ school feared hit by poison gas, 74 girls fall sick

As many as 74 schoolgirls in Afghanistan’s far north fell sick after smelling gas and were being examined for possible poisoning, local officials said on Sunday.

While instances of poisoning are sometimes later found to be false alarms, there have been numerous substantiated cases of mass poisonings of schoolgirls by elements of Afghanistan’s ultra-conservative society that are opposed to female education.

Local officials said the girls became ill after smelling gas at their school, Bibi Maryam, in Takhar province’s capital, Taluqan. The city is about 250 kilometers north of the country’s capital, Kabul.

The Takhar governor’s spokesman, Sulaiman Moradi, blamed” enemies of the government and the country” for the mass illness and said the aim was to stop girls from going to school.

The girls were taken to the provincial hospital and most were released after being treated, though several remained in a critical condition on Sunday evening, the head of the hospital, Dr. Jamil Frotan, said.
. . .
The apparent poisoning came three days after more than a dozen students fell ill in another girls’ high school in Taluqan. No-one has claimed responsibility for either incident.

Between May and June last year there were four poisoning attacks on a girls’ school in Takhar, prompting local officials to order principals to stay in school until late and staff to search the grounds for suspicious objects and to test the water for contaminants.

Takhar has been a hotbed of militancy and criminal activity since 2009, with groups such as the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan active.

Since the 2001 ousting of the Taliban, which banned education for women and girls, females have returned to schools, especially in Kabul.

But periodic attacks against female students, their teachers and their school buildings, continue.

Afghan women have won back basic rights in education, voting and employment since 2001, but fears are growing that such gains could be traded away as Western forces prepare to leave and the Afghan government seeks peace talks with the Taliban.

US: FBI hunting 12-strong terrorist 'sleeper cell' linked to Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

The FBI was last night hunting a 12-strong terrorist “sleeper cell” linked to the Boston marathon bomb brothers.

Police believe Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were specially trained to carry out the devastating attack.

More than 1,000 FBI operatives were last night working to track down the cell and arrested a man and two women 60 miles from Boston in the hours before Dzhokhar’s dramatic capture after a bloody shootout on Friday.

A source close to the investigation said: “We have no doubt the brothers were not acting alone. The devices used to detonate the two bombs were highly sophisticated and not the kind of thing people learn from Google.

“They were too advanced. Someone gave the brothers the skills and it is now our job to find out just who they were. Agents think the sleeper cell has up to a dozen members and has been waiting several years for their day to come.”

A specialist team of CIA and FBI interrogators was yesterday flown to a Boston hospital to grill wounded Dzhokhar, 19, about the secret group. The University of Massachusetts student was caught on Friday after hiding out in a boat parked in a garden in locked down Watertown the day after a gun battle with police left his 26-year-old brother and a rookie cop dead.

Dzhokhar is said to have run his brother over as he escaped in a stolen car while Tamerlan lay handcuffed on the ground. They were carrying six bombs with them at the time, three of which ­exploded, as well as a handgun and rifle. The devices were thought to be pipe bombs.

Last night Dzhokhar – badly wounded but alive – lay handcuffed to his hospital bed under armed guard. The other three arrested in the port of New Bedford are also believed to be of college age.

Dzhokhar even went to a college party two days after the bombs wreaked havoc at the finish line. According to fellow students, he “looked relaxed” as he joined in a party at the campus on Wednesday night.

Hours later he was involved in the shootout which saw his brother killed.

Investigators have begun piecing together how the “well-mannered” brothers of Chechen origin were radicalised. Neighbours of the family said older brother Tamerlan had recently become obsessed with Islam. He mysteriously left the US in January last year to spend six months in Russia. Yesterday senior FBI counter-terrorism official Kevin Brock said: “It’s a key thread for investigators.”

It also emerged the Bureau interviewed Tamerlan two years ago, at the request of the Russian government, but could not establish that he had ties to terrorist radicals.

This was despite his worrying Russian-language YouTube page featuring links to extremist Islamic sites and others since taken down by YouTube.

One link showed an hour-long speech by an Islamic teacher called Shaykh Feiz Mohammed, while other videos are labled “Terrorists” and “Islam”.

The radical cleric, with links to extremist British Muslims, encouraged his followers to become martyrs for Islam. He said: “Teach them this: There is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid.”
. . .
US Government officials have said the brothers were not under surveillance as possible militants. And an FBI statement said the matter was closed because interviews with Tamerlan and family members “did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign”. But now they believe the pair, who emigrated to the United States from Dagestan about a decade ago, were part of a terror cell...

UK: Anglican school with Muslim majority drops Christian hymns, creates segregated prayer rooms and serves only halal meat

Hymns have been dropped from assemblies at a Church of England school which has also introduced separate prayer rooms for girls and boys to cater to its mostly Muslim students.

Daily assemblies at Slough and Eton Church of England Business and Enterprise College, where 75 per cent of pupils are Muslim, are not based specifically on the Bible, but may make reference to it alongside other religious texts.

All of the the meat served at the secondary school, which has over 1,000 pupils aged between 11 and 19, is halal.

Headmaster Paul McAteer said the approach was to be 'sensitive to the fact that we do have many different faiths in the school', but added that Christian values were 'more prevalent here than I have experienced in non-Church of England schools'.

Mr McAteer, who pointed out that the Church of England describes itself as 'a faith for all faiths', told the Sunday Times: 'The values we support are very much Christian values of honesty, integrity, justice.'

The headmaster explained that the gender-separated prayer rooms at Slough and Eton, which is a voluntary controlled Church of England school, were not specifically for Muslim pupils, but said that it tended to be Muslim children that use them.

A voluntary controlled school refers to one which is state funded but the running of which a foundation - in this case the Church of England - has some influence over.

He said 20 male students would typically attend a lunchtime Islamic prayer session at the Berkshire school.

One of the school aims outlined on its mission statement is 'to promote tolerance and respect for all cultures represented in the school'...

Israel: Muslim women arrested for repeatedly attempting to physically block Jews from visiting the Temple Mount

Several of the Muslim women who repeatedly attempted to physically block Jews from visiting the Temple Mount were arrested, police have said.

Police commander Avi Biton reported the arrests in a letter to Michael Puah, who had sent a letter of complaint over the women’s provocative actions.

The women’s actions were caught on film over the Passover holiday. The women moved to sit in front of a passageway in order to prevent Jewish visitors from accessing the area, but eventually moved after police officers spoke to them.

Jewish visitors reported that the women yelled insults at them as they walked by.

In his letter to Biton, Puah noted that the women’s actions were not a one-time protest, but rather, part of an ongoing effort by female Muslim worshipers to interfere with Jewish access to the holy site.
. . .
Puah noted that the provocations caused concern not only due to the issue of Jewish access to the holy site, but also due to the recent discovery of a Muslim terrorist cell that was active on the Temple Mount. “There is real fear that from this group of women who do whatever they please will come a female terrorist, or even a male terrorist hidden by those baggy clothes, who will complete the work of the terror cell that was caught,” he wrote.

US: Teenager arrested on terrorism-related charges and accused of trying to join an Al Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria

A suburban Chicago teenager has been arrested on terrorism-related charges and accused of seeking to join an Al Qaeda-affiliated group in war-torn Syria, the FBI announced Saturday.

Abdella Ahmad Tounisi was arrested Friday night as he attempted to board a flight from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to Turkey, which borders Syria, the FBI said. He hoped to join Jabhat al-Nusrah, a group fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime in a bloody civil war.

There are no links between Tounisi and the Boston Marathon bombings earlier in the week, the head of the FBI office in Chicago, Cory B. Nelson, said in a statement announcing the arrest.

Tounisi, a U.S. citizen, was snared in an Internet sting after contacting a sham website set up by the FBI that purported to hook up would-be fighters with terrorists, the federal complaint says.

The 18-year-old Aurora man was surprisingly frank about his lack of fighting experience.

"Concerning my fighting skills, to be honest, I do not have any," he allegedly wrote in one email written this year, according to the complaint. "I'm very small ... physically but I pray to Allah that he makes me successful."

At the top of the website were the words, "A Call for Jihad in Syria," and the site invited interested parties to "come and join your lion brothers ... who are fighting under the true banner of Islam." Elsewhere, the site advised users on how to conceal their Internet tracks, the complaint says.

Email responses to Tounisi from an FBI agent posing as a terror-group recruiter referred to Tounisi as "Brother Abdullah" and encouraged him not to despair about his lack of battle skills.

Tounisi is charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, he faces a maximum 15-year prison term.

FBI Special Agent Joan Hyde told that Tounisi was provided with a bus ticket that would take him from Istanbul to a city near the border of Turkey and Syria.

"The charges were a result of some online communications that he had with an undercover employee...Mr. Tounisi thought that the individual was a recruiter for the al-Nusra terrorist organization," Hyde told the station.

Tounisi was carrying out research online about Jabhat al-Nusrah, or Nursa Front, which is a well-organized rebel faction Assad's regime, the complaint says. In late 2012, the U.S. government designated the group a foreign terrorist organization, describing it as an alias for the group Al Qaeda in Iraq.

According to the complaint, Tousini's Internet searches included the keywords "martyrdom operations," as well as the phrases "providing material support what does it mean" and "Terrorism Act 2000" — a possible indication that he was concerned about the legal implications of what he was contemplating.
. . .
The complaint says Tounisi was a close friend of Adel Daoud, a Chicago-area teen who was arrested last year on charges he sought to detonate a device he thought was a bomb outside a downtown bar.

Afghanistan: Taliban carries out amputations of two robbers in public after Friday prayers

A Taliban court ordered cutting off a hand and a foot of two men convicted of robbery and cooperating with a security firm in western Herat province, officials said on Saturday.

The victims were then taken to a hospital in Torghondai area, a border town of Robat Sangi district, a spokesman for western zone hospitals, Dr. Mohammad Rafique Sherzai, told Pajhwok Afghan News.

"The Taliban detained me about 25 days ago on the charge of cooperating with a security company. Their court ordered cutting my right hand on Friday," one of the two victims, said on condition of anonymity.

The Taliban carried out the amputations in public after Friday prayers, a security official in Robat Sangi district, said, seeking anonymity.

Herat deputy police chief Brig. Gen. Abdul Hameed Hameedi confirmed the incident, saying the verdict was imposed under Shariah law...

Tanzania: Muslims targeting Protestant pastors and Catholic priests, as persecution against Christians increases

For many years Christians in Tanzania have felt safe worshipping, given the country's Christian majorities.

Now, their security is quickly evaporating following a wave of persecution threatening churches and targeting pastors. Tanzanian churches are growing and witnessing a new unity, but Christians have paid a painful price.

Persecution of Pastors

Generosa Kachila told CBN News she burst into tears when her neighbor stormed in with the nightmarish news,"I shouted, my Jesus, my Jesus, why have you forsaken me?"

February 11, 2013, a Muslim mob brandishing machetes murdered Generosa's husband, Tanzania Assemblies of God Pastor Mathayo Kachila. The brutal attack occurred as the pastor walked to the home of a friend.

The motive? Anger grew after Christians began butchering and selling meat. The lucrative business traditionally belonged to Muslims, who prepare it in their religious way known as halal.

In his last few breaths, Pastor Mathayo identifed his killer. Ezekiel Meschach said the pastor told him it was a neighbor named Abdallah.

"I was not surprised because just before the attack I saw Abdallah leaving the mosque carrying a machete," Meschach explained. "He grew a long beard and often wore pants and a vest that resembled those worn by Taliban fighters."

Locals believe Abdallah fled to neighboring Burundi.

Witnesses On The Run

Victor Ligala is also on the run, but not for committing murder. Militant Muslims threatened to kill him because he videotaped the riot, capturing their images on camera. Ligala also visited the local morgue and shot exclusive photos and video of the deceased pastor's wounds. They are too graphic to show without blurring the images.

Ligala expressed frustration about his inability to help save the pastor's life:

"I was highly affected by seeing the pastor killed in that way because he was a fellow Christian and I didn't have any power to rescue his life, but only to watch events unfold. I have known him for a long time," he said.

Ligala is a teacher who is now without money because he is in hiding from those who are threatening to kill him. He said he does not regret shooting the video.

"I want the whole world to learn that has happened to our country, so nothing like this will happen again," he explained.

Targeting Catholic Priests

It is not just Protestant Pastors who are facing threats--Catholics are also being targeted. Last Feb. 17, Father Evaristus Mushi was arriving at St. Theresa's church in Zanzibar to celebrate mass. He was gunned down about 10 yards away from the church entrance.

Sister Maria Gaspara said Father Mushi was a kind and loving man who possessed a good sense of humor.

She told CBN, "He was devoted to his work. He loved Jesus."

Some Tanzanian Christians say Father Mushi's murder proves that the goal of Islamic extremists is to target church leaders.

One pastor who knew Mathayo Kachila, Pastor Isaiah Ikiri, said he believes Islamic extremists have a long term strategy for Tanzania.

"They plan to Islamize the whole of Tanzanian nation. Islamic leaders have urged Muslims to come together to attack, fight and kill bishops, priests and pastors," Ikiri said.

Kyrgyzstan: Central Asian mosques supplying young Muslims for Syrian war, similar incidents have also occurred in Europe

Over 20 young Islamists are believed to have left southern Kyrgyzstan to join the rebel front in Syria. The episode was reported by the Ata-Jurt conservative nationalist party member Dastanbek Dzhumabekov, who on 17 April asked parliament to open an investigation.

According to the MP, the youth were recruited in mosques in southern Kyrgyzstan and flown to Syria through Turkey.
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Recruitment attempts by the Syrian Islamist fringes have also been reported in many Middle Eastern countries and beyond. Last month, the Tunisian government opened an investigation into the alleged militancy of dozens of Tunisians among rebel groups. The young Islamists left the country on tourist visas for Libya or Turkey, from where they can then easily enter Syria.

Similar incidents have also occurred in Europe, where data published by the King's College of London reported that since the beginning of March 2011, more than 600 activists from 14 countries have joined the Islamist brigades in the fight to Assad. On 16 April, the Brussels police made forty-six checks for suspected involvement in terrorist activities.

US: Aunt of Boston Marathon bombing suspects says the older brother recently became a devout Muslim

Maret Tsarnaeva told reporters at her Toronto home on Friday that her brother Anzor Tsarnaev had high expectations for his sons, especially 26-year-old Tamerlan.

She says her brother was desperate when he found out Tamerlan dropped out of his university.

She says Tamerlan married and had a daughter in the US and that his religious devotion led him to pray five times a day.

She called the boys smart and athletic, and she wants proof they are involved in the bombing.

"Within the family, everything was perfect," the aunt says.

US: Second suspect wanted for the Boston Marathon bombings in custody alive

The teenage suspect in the Boston marathon bombings has been taken into custody in a suburb of the city, police have said.

Gunfire was heard as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was reportedly found hiding in a boat in a backyard in Watertown.

He had escaped on foot early on Friday after a police shootout that claimed the life of his elder brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Three people died and more than 170 were hurt in Monday's bombings.

Boston Police Department tweeted: "CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody."

Explosions heard A law enforcement official told the Associated Press news agency that the suspect was covered in blood.

Police helicopters buzzed overhead, and bomb squad vans and ambulances were in position around the house in Franklin Street in Watertown on Friday night.

At one stage a series of about 15 explosions erupted, which local television channels speculated could have been flash-bang grenades used by the authorities.

A local resident, Anna Bedirian, told Reuters news agency: "There's about 50 guys there with machine guns and they all got bulletproof vests on, some of them are holding shields.

"There are a couple of armoured cars and they're all standing around."

Friday night's breakthrough came less than an hour after authorities lifted a city-wide order for residents to stay indoors, and reopened the transport system, as the trail appeared to have gone cold.

Thousands of Swat team officers scoured the streets all day in a manhunt that virtually shut down the city.

Officials had shut down all mass transit and warned close to one million people in Boston and some of its suburbs not to leave their homes.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a college student, had fled on foot following a gun battle that left 200 spent rounds and a car chase in which he and his brother hurled explosives at police, authorities said.

The brothers also shot and killed a university policeman and severely wounded another officer late on Thursday, authorities said, hours after the FBI released images of marathon-bombing suspects.

Law enforcement officials and family members have identified the Tsarnaev brothers as ethnic Chechens who had been living in America for about a decade.
Boston bombs suspect 'in custody'
BBC News, April 19, 2013

US: "Salamworld, my religion is Islam," bomber posted links to Islam sites and links supporting Muslim separatists in Russia and Sunni rebels in Syria

Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev posted links to Islamic websites and others calling for Chechen independence on what appears to be his page on a Russian language social networking site.

Abusive comments in Russian and English were flooding onto Tsarnaev's page on VK, a Russian-language social media site, on Friday after he was identified as a suspect in the bombing of the Boston marathon.

Police launched a massive manhunt for Tsarnaev, 19, after killing his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a shootout overnight.

On the site, the younger Tsarnaev identifies himself as a 2011 graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

It says he went to primary school in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan, a province in Russia that borders Chechnya, and lists his languages as English, Russian and Chechen.

His "World view" is listed as "Islam" and his "Personal priority" is "career and money".

He has posted links to videos of fighters in the Syrian civil war and to Islamic web pages with titles like "Salamworld, my religion is Islam" and "There is no God but Allah, let that ring out in our hearts".

He also has links to pages calling for independence for Chechnya, a region of Russia that lost its bid for secession after two wars in the 1990s...

US: "I'm very religious," Boston bombers are two Chechen Muslims, one created YouTube playlists dedicated to Islam and terrorism

The following report does not mention his playlists for both Islam and terrorism, but you can see the lists for yourself by following the link they provide.

Authorities are now confirming the two suspects sought in Monday's Boston Marathon bombing are two Russian-born (as reported by the AP) Chechen brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev. Tamerlan, the older brother, is dead. Here's what we know about him.

It's not much, and most of it's derived from a photo gallery for a 2010 article in the Boston University graduate school magazine. [Update, 3:20 p.m.: We've removed the photos at Landov Media's request.] We know Tamerlan Tsarnaev was 26 and a competitive boxer for a club named Team Lowell. He won the Rocky Marciano Trophy for being New England Golden Gloves heavyweight champion in 2010, and did this while taking time off from school at Bunker Hill Community College where he studied in hopes of being an engineer. He's been boxing in the U.S. since at least 2004, and his uncle told WBZ in Boston that he arrived in the United States in 2000 under refugee status from Kyrgyzstan.
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We know he had a YouTube profile, where he created a playlist dedicated to terrorism. The photo gallery features his girlfriend at the time, and the caption reads:

Tamerlan says his girlfriend is half Portuguese, half Italian girlfriend and converted to Islam: "She's beautiful, man!"

Other photo captions in the gallery:

Tamerlan demonstrates a way of walking to strengthen the ankle muscles at the Wai Kru Mixed Martial Arts center. A native of Chechnya, Tamerlan says: "In Russia, we used to train like this. Here nobody does it, I don't know why!"

Tamerlan says he doesn't drink or smoke anymore: "God said no alcohol." A muslim, he says: "There are no values anymore," and worries that "people can't control themselves."

Tamerlan says he doesn't usually take his shirt off so girls don't get bad ideas: "I'm very religious."

Tamerlan says he loves the movie "Borat," even though some of the jokes are a bit too much.

If he wins enough fights there, Tamerlan says he could be selected for the US Olympic team and be naturalized American. Unless his native Chechnya becomes independent, Tamerlan says he would rather compete for the United States than for Russia.

US: Two suspects wanted for the Boston Marathon bombings engaged in shootout with police, 1 suspect and 1 officer dead

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

The two suspects wanted for the Boston Marathon bombings engaged in an explosive shootout with police overnight Thursday and into Friday in Watertown, Mass. The incident left Suspect 1 dead.

Authorities launched an investigation after news broke that an MIT police officer, identified later as Sean Collier, 26, had been shot and killed on Thursday. Around 1:20 a.m. Friday, CNN had live coverage of a firefight between police and the two suspects -- identified later as brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev -- in the Boston suburb of Watertown...

Somalia: Christian convert captured and tortured by Muslim militants remains missing, feared dead

A Christian convert who was captured and reportedly tortured by Islamic militants in Somalia remained missing Friday, April 19, and there were fears he may have died.

Four fighters of militant group al-Shabab abducted Hassan Gulled, 25, on March 23, after monitoring him for several weeks, local Christians said. He was thought to be held at an al-Shabab base in Bulo Marer, Somalia.

Christian rights activists said Gulled traveled to Somalia from neighboring Kenya on February 27 to visit family.

Gulled is one of many Somali refugees risking traveling to Somalia since a new government was established following victories over al-Shabab, by African Union peacekeepers.

The Christian reportedly fled Somalia in 2007 to establish a new life in Kenya. In 2010, Gulled became a Christian, making him "an ideal target for Islamic extremists in East Africa," said International Christian Concern (ICC), an advocacy group monitoring developments in the troubled nation.


Al-Shabab militants in Kenya who knew of Gulled's conversion informed fellow fighters in Somalia, who followed him several weeks. Local Christians have said they believe the militants are "torturing him to see whether he [will] deny his Christian faith." They have expressed concerns he "could have been killed."

There was no official reaction from al-Shabab, which has been linked to the al-Qaida terror network. However ICC told BosNewsLife that he is the fourth Christian known to be attacked by the militants in Somalia in the past five months.

"On February 18, Ahmed Ali Jimale was shot by al-Shabab militants while standing outside his house in Alanley village. On December 8, Mursal Isse Said was also shot outside his house by militants in Beledweyne. On November 16, Farhan Haji Mosa was beheaded by al-Shabab militants in Barawa after it was discovered that he had converted to Christianity," ICC recalled.

Al-Shabab fights for a state based on harsh Sharia, or Islamic law, and believes Somalis are born Muslims by default. Somalis found practicing another religion, are considered guilty of apostasy.


In Islamic Sharia, apostasy occurs when a Muslim leaves Islam for another faith. According to strict interpretations of Sharia, people guilty of apostasy should be put to death, experts say. "Al-Shabab adheres to such a strict interpretation, which is why they deal with apostates so harshly," including Christians, ICC said.

ICC's Regional Manager for Africa, William Stark, told BosNewsLife he remains concerned about the future. "The group continues to terrorize Christians in both Somalia and neighboring countries," he said.

"Al-Shabab is an Islamic extremist group that has vowed to make Somalia 'purely Islamic.' The group adheres to an extremely harsh interpretation of Sharia that includes the beheading of converts from Islam and the removal of hands from thieves."

He said that as "more Somalis return to Somalia following the establishment of the new government, steps must be taken to protect religious minorities."


Stark said he was especially concerned about the "small and extremely vulnerable population of Christians in Somalia."

The "practice of kidnapping, torturing and killing converts from Islam must be addressed by the international community and should have no place in modern society," he added.

Despite the reported attacks there may be at least 1,000 devoted Christians in the country, according to well-informed Christian groups, but experts say an exact figure is difficult to get as many pretend to be Muslims for fear of retribution.

Nigeria: Shari’ah court okays amputation of man's arm over theft

An Upper Shari’a Area Court inBauchi has confirmed the judgement of a lower court that ordered the amputation of the arm of Abdullahi Sale, a resident of Kogi village in Bauchi Local Government Area, for theft.

A lower Shari’a Court in the area had earlier convicted Abdullahi Sale on the charges levelled against him.

According to the Police Prosecutor Corporal Idris Malum, the convict broke into the shops of one DanladiYa’u of ZungurKogi and Yusuf Babba of Bula-Lusa and carted away properties worth about N13, 000.

The offence, according to the prosecution, contravenes section 151 of Shari’a Penal Code.

Meanwhile the convict had pleaded guilty, but sought for leniency from the court.

Nigeria: Authorities charge a man with masterminding the 2011 Christmas Day bomb attack on a Catholic church

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

Security forces captured Kabiru Sokoto, the main suspect in the attack, in January 2012. He escaped a day later but was recaptured the following month.

In court on Friday he pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism. Justice Adeniyi Ademola adjourned trial to May 2.

Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, on the outskirts of Abuja, which killed 37 people and wounded 57, in the deadliest of a series of attacks at Christmas.
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Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language of largely Muslim northern Nigeria means "Western education is sinful," is loosely modeled on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.

Its fighters want an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria, a country of 170 million split roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims. Its favourite targets are the police, politicians and Christians.

The group, or someone claiming to represent it, took responsibility for kidnapping a French family of seven in February, who French and Cameroonian authorities on Friday said had been released.

Tunisia: Muslims storm female student hostel, throw stones and bottles at the women to stop them dancing

Hardline Islamists threw stones and bottles at young women in a student hostel in Tunis to stop them staging a performance of dance and music, witnesses said on Thursday, in another blow to secular freedoms in the country that spawned the Arab Spring.

Since secular dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fell two years ago in the first of multiple revolts across the Arab world, moderate Islamists have won election and radical Muslims have targeted symbols of a hitherto mainly secular society.

Female university students housed at the Bardo district hostel in the capital were just starting a weekly show of dance and music on Wednesday evening when dozens of hardline Salafists broke into the premises after scaling its walls, witnesses said.

"They smashed windows on our building and threw stones and bottles at the students, stopping the performance," said Rim Nsairi, one of the students, who are aged 19 to 24.

The disturbance lasted almost an hour before the assailants fled. There were no serious injuries and no arrests.

"This is unacceptable ... The police were present and did not move. It just raises anger and fear," said Ameni, another student who did not want her last name used. The Interior Ministry, which runs the police, had no immediate comment.

Hostel administrator Raja Madyouni said the university had now tightened security. Salafists had previously threatened female students because of their Western dress and in some cases smoking and relations with young men, according to Madyouni.

It was the latest in a spate of Salafist assaults in the North African state, long among the most secular in the Arab world, over the past year.

Last week, Islamists burst into a secondary school and assaulted its principal after he barred entry to a teenage girl wearing an Islamic face veil. Police fired at Islamists, killing one, after their station came under attack in a southern town.

Tunisian police blamed Salafists for the assassination of secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid in February, which provoked the biggest street protests in Tunisia since the overthrow of Ben Ali in January 2011.

Salafists have also attacked wine sellers in several Tunisian cities, prompting secularists to accuse them of having formed a religious police and threatening the state.

Salafists intervened to scuttle the staging of several concerts and plays in several cities last year, declaring that they violated Islamic principles. Last September, hardline Islamists ransacked the U.S. Embassy in Tunis during worldwide Muslim protests over an anti-Islam video posted on the Internet...

Russia: Cache containing arms, ammunition and dual-purpose items discovered in central mosque of Dagestani village

A cache containing arms, ammunition and dual-purpose items was discovered on Tuesday during a special operation in the village of Gimry, Interfax was told at the Interior Ministry press service for Dagestan.

A press officer said that village law enforcement removed an assault rifle, a pistol, an air gun, a grenade, machinegun magazines, large quantities of cartridges, 27 walkie-talkies of various models, several dozen car alarms, instructions for making home-made bombs, maps of the locality, and over 200,000 rubles in cash from the cache in the central mosque of the village.

Operatives say the cache belonged to members of Gimry terrorist group.

"The counting and identification of the seized weaponry continues. The effort was conducted jointly by operatives of the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service (FSB) department for Dagestan and a police task force stationed in Dagestan," the press officer said.

Nigeria: Muslim worshipers attack suspected mosque bomber, drench him in petrol and set him alight

Muslim worshippers in northern Nigeria's Kano on Wednesday lynched a suspected bomber after an explosive detonated outside the city's main mosque, a military spokesperson said.

The suspect was mobbed and drenched in petrol along with his motorised tricycle before being set alight, while a second suspect was nabbed while trying to flee, Lieutenant Iweha Ikedichi said.

"There was an explosion around the central mosque this evening and people in the area pursued the bombers who came on a tricycle and lynched one of them by setting him and the tricycle on fire," Ikedichi said.

"The other suspect was apprehended and is in our custody," Ikedichi said, without giving details on the identity of the suspect.

There were no injuries from the explosion or damage to the mosque, which sits at the centre of the city near the palace of Emir of Kano Ado Bayero.

The emir is an influential traditional and spiritual leader who survived a gun attack on his convoy in January in which five people were killed.
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The Boko Haram conflict is estimated to have left more than 3 000 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security services.

India: Muslims attack and attempt to set fire to a Christian children’s home following allegations of proselytizing children

Armed with stones and sticks, a group of men in Srinagar, a largely Muslim city of 1.3 million in northern India, attacked and attempted to set fire to a Christian children’s home. The men beat residents of the home before police arrived. The attack occurred after local mullahs accused the ecumenical Christian group that runs the home of attempting to convert Muslim children. Although a local police investigation found the accusation groundless, the armed men were able to intimidate the home’s landlord, who has asked the Christian group to vacate the premises.

Afghanistan: 17 schoolgirls ill after gas attack, last year nearly 700 female students poisoned

At least 17 high school girls fell ill and lost consciousness after a suspected poisonous gas attack at their school in Taloqan, the capital of northern Takhar province, officials said on Thursday.

The female students of 8th, 11th and 12th grade at the Bibi Hawa Girls’ High school smell a poisoning gas on Thursday morning at classrooms before falling unconscious , the education department spokesman Gul Agha Nazari told Pajhwok Afghan News.

Some students started crying seeing their class fellows falling on the ground before education department employees took them to a hospital with the help of police, he said.

Public health director Dr. Hafizullah Safi said 16 girls were brought to the hospital and many of them were now in stable condition,.

He said they were investigating what had happened to the girls, but it remained unclear what kind of substance was used.

Last year, nearly 700 female students in Takhar, including those of Bibi Hajira School, were poisoned by drinking contaminated water and smelling a poisonous gas.

Some 160 schoolgirls had fallen ill and lost consciousness in a similar attack on May 29 last year at the Ahan Dara Girls' High School in Toloqan. That incident was the fourth alleged attack on a school in the area in a month time.

At that time, affected girls said they smelled something as they entered classrooms and started to vomit and fell unconscious.

Intelligence officials say the Taliban were behind such attacks on schools and students in an attempt to intimidate families to stop sending their children to school.

Several other major poisonings have been reported last year, including one affecting more than 120 schoolgirls in the same province on May 23.

Another attack targeted a boys' school in Khost in April 2012, leaving more than 200 students ill.

The Education Ministry says 550 schools have been closed down because of security concerns, affecting 300,000 students in 11 provinces...

Somalia: Muslim militants jail and torture Christian for converting from Islam

Muslim militants still controlling part of the Lower Shebelle Region of Somalia have jailed and tortured a Christian for converting from Islam, sources said.

According to a story by Morning Star News, Al Shabaab rebels seized Hassan Gulled, 25, on March 23 in Bulo Marer near Qoryoley District, they said.

Gulled, who had fled to Kenya in 2007 in search of safety and a better life, had left Kenya on February 27 to visit family in Somalia, sources said.

Gulled is one of dozens of Somali refugees in Kenya facing dangers from Al Shabaab extremists as they return to Somalia following the establishment of a new government in Mogadishu and the weakening of Al Shabaab, which once held large portions of territory.

Morning Star News said as Gulled was only visiting family in Somalia, his wife remained in an undisclosed city in Kenya. Al Shabaab extremists in Kenya who knew of his Christian activities there apparently contacted members of the militant group in Somalia, who monitored his movement for three weeks before seizing him, sources said.

"Four masked, armed militia from Al Shabaab took Gulled into a Land Cruiser and then drove away as family watched him helplessly," Morning Star News reported one source said.

Another source said it was confirmed that Gulled has been jailed in Bulo Marer.

"The Al Shabaab have been torturing him to see whether he would deny his Christian faith," the source said. "Since last week, no information has surfaced concerning Gulled. There is a possibility that he could have been killed."

A militant Islamist group with ties to Al Qaeda, Morning Star News said Al Shabaab has a base in Bulo Marer, about 50 miles from Mogadishu.

Last week, however, Somali government troops backed by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces had reportedly taken control of nearby Qoryoley.

Morning Star News said Al Shabaab has vowed to rid Somalia of Christians, who meet secretly due to persecution. Besides Al Shabaab, the government and many in Somali society also view leaving Islam as deserving of death.

Gulled became a Christian in Kenya in 2010. He married there in 2011 and has no children.

"Gulled's wife is very distressed and worried that she might not see her husband again," Morning Star News reported a source said.

Many Somali members of Christian fellowships in Kenya have returned to Somalia after formation of a Somali government on August 20, 2012, which replaced the Transitional Federal Government, said the source, who requested anonymity.

"Several Christian agencies are helping them settle," Morning Star News reported he said. "But we are worried that some of our members are being monitored closely by Islamic extremists."

Al Shabaab has lost control of several areas of Somalia since Kenyan military forces helped to dislodge them in the past year, but they are suspected in the shooting death of a Christian pharmacist on the outskirts of Kismayo in February.

Kenya: Angry mob strips woman and rip up her clothing for dressing provocatively

A group of men attacked a woman who was dressed in a mini skirt.

The men attacked the woman claiming that she was dressed inappropriately. The woman was spotted walking on the street in Kitengela, a town in Kenya.

The angry mob claimed the dress was too short. They argued with the woman to change into something more appropriate. When the woman ignored their request the men attacked her and undressed her.

The men then ripped her clothing apart so she could not put them back on, claiming that “it was better for her to go naked because her intentions were clear,” according to press reports in Kenya.

According to a witness, the crowd gathered around the woman and forcibly undressed her. Her clothes were torn and thrown away ensuring that she had nothing to cover her body as a punishment for dressing provocatively.
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Many people gathered to watch as the drama unfolded.

The woman was left on the floor with nothing to cover her body. A Good Samaritan who witnessed the incident offered the woman a long dress so she could go home.

The victim's mothers was warned not to let her daughter leave the house without her approval, according to press reports in Kenya.

Pakistan: Avocacy group urges president to release Christians accused of defaming Islam and halt "the misuse of blasphemy laws"

An advocacy group urged Pakistan's president Wednesday, April 17, to release Christians accused of defaming Islam and halt "the misuse of blasphemy laws" after court proceedings against a man whose alleged "derogatory remarks" about Islam's Prophet Mohammad sparked riots in Lahore city.

"We are profoundly concerned over the growing religious intolerance and extremism in Pakistan," said Sheraz Khan, the chief executive of the Glasgow-based Global Minorities Alliance (GMA), which also supports Pakistan's minority Christians.

In an open letter to President Asif Ali Zardari, he said his group would continue holding protests unless the Pakistani leader explains in writing which steps the Pakistani government "has taken since the March 9 violence [in Lahore] to avoid possible future misuse of Pakistan's blasphemy laws."

He told BosNewsLife that his group had already demonstrated outside the Scottish Parliament against the legislation and to condemn the Lahore violence in which as many as 180 Christian-owned homes, shops and two churches were burned down by angry Muslims.

"We will stage protest demonstrations not only outside the Scottish Parliament but also outside the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Welsh Assembly, the Houses of Parliament in London and outside the United Nations office in Geneva in Switzerland if we do not hear from you in writing until the 7th of July 2013," the open letter quoted Khan as saying.


The comments came after a Christian lawyer applied for the release on bail of the alleged blasphemer sparking the clashes, 35-year-old Sawan Masih, a Christian street cleaner who has denied the charges since his March 9 detention.

"There was a bail hearing in the Session Court of Lahore," Monday, April 15, said his lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill in an interview with BosNewsLife.

In court papers, seen by BosNewsLife, Gill called the charges "false, frivolous, baseless and concocted."

Gill, who is also national director of the Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD) group, told BosNewsLife that he and Sawan's family members have visited the prisoner in Camp jail Lahore and prayed with him.

"Sawan's mother,sisters and brothers wept bitterly when they met with Sawan Masih," he said. Yet,"They were very happy to see and visit Sawan Masih, especially his sister and mother".


It was not immediately clear Wednesday, April 17, when and if the release on bail will be granted.

Gill told BosNewsLife he has doubts about the way the police investigation was conducted.

"Complainant Shahid Imram", a former friend, "mentioned that Swan said 'Our Jesus will come back again and must come back, and He is the Son of God'," recalled Gill, citing a police report.

Imram also accused Swan Masih of making "some derogatory words about the prophet of Islam" but he made those allegations "only after second thoughts and consultations" with others, "which makes the story of the prosecution highly doubtful," Gill explained.

If convicted, the Christian could face the death penalty under article 295 C of the controversial legislation.


Additionally, GMA expressed concerns about Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who is on death row in Pakistan. "We urge you to give presidential clemency to Asia Bibi," said the open letter to Pakistan's president.

The 42-year-old Bibi was sentenced in 2009 and has been jailed ever since while awaiting her appeal against a death sentence on blasphemy charges.

Earlier this year, a high-ranking Vatican cardinal also wrote to President Zardari asking for the release of Bibi. Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, vice dean of the College of Cardinals, called for a "gesture of clemency" in the February appeal.

More than a dozen people are known to be on death row over blasphemy allegations and over 50 people have been killed while awaiting trial on similar charges, according to rights activists.

Christians comprise less than 4 percent of Pakistan's over 193 million mainly Muslim population, according to official estimates.

Egypt: High-ranking Muslim Brotherhood official assumes Muslims behind Boston attacks, blames the United States

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

A high-ranking Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood official has linked the deadly Boston attacks to the U.S.-backed French war in Mali.

Essam Elerian, vice chairman of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), wrote in a statement posted in Arabic on his Facebook account that the “events began with the sending of French battalions to Mali in a war against organizations that are said to be part of al Qaeda.”

Elerian expressed sympathy with the families of the victims, but said the attacks “do not stop us from reading into the grave incident.”

“Who interfered in democratic transformations, despite the difficult transition from despotism, corruption, poverty, hatred and intolerance to freedom, justice, tolerance, development, human dignity and social justice?” he asked. “Who created Islamophobia through research and media? Who funded this violence?”

Earlier, Elerian’s FJP party published a statement in English condemning the “heinous attacks in Boston,” which killed three people and wounded more than 170 others. The party said it “offers heartfelt sympathies and solemn condolences to the American people and the families of the victims.”

“Islamic Sharia [law] strongly condemns the attacks on civilians and the terrorizing of innocent people.”

Saudi Arabia: Three men deemed "too handsome" by religious authorities deported

Three men were booted out of Saudi Arabia because they were deemed "too handsome" by religious authorities who worried that women would become attracted to them.

Sitting in the stands as delegates from the United Arab Emirates at the Jenadrivah Heritage & Cultural Festival in Riyad on Sunday, nothing seemed to be wrong with the men in question but that didn't stop the mutaween, Saudi Arabia's religious police, from charging in and hauling the men away, according to Arabic language newspaper Elaph.

“A festival official said the three Emiratis were taken out on the grounds they are too handsome and that the Commission members feared female visitors could fall for them,” the newspaper reported.

After being dragged out of the event by the Saudi authorities, the three men were subsequently deported back to the UAE.

Saudi Arabia is an extremely conservative Sunni Muslim country and it prohibits women from interacting with men who aren't their relatives.

Israel: Muslim group claims responsibility for rocket attack on the Israeli resort city of Eilat

A Salafi Muslim jihadist group has claimed responsibility for Wednesday morning’s rocket attack on the Israeli Red Sea resort city of Eilat.

“The lions of the Mujahedeen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem managed to target occupied Eilat with two Grad rockets on the morning of April 17, and withdrew safely,” a statement posted on jihadist web sites said. There were no details indicating the site from where the rockets had been launched, AFP reported.

However, a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Force said the rocket fire had been traced to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, a region which has become a hotbed of terrorist activity since the fall in 2011 of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Egyptian military said it was still checking the source of the rocket fire. “We are still investigating to see if they were delivered from Egyptian territories but nothing is confirmed yet,” a senior military official told AFP.

The two rockets slammed into the city of Eilat at about 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, one exploding in the back yard of a private home, the other landing in an open area.

Although a number of people suffered severe anxiety and shock as a result of the attack, no one was physically injured and no property damage was reported.

Authorities ordered a temporary closure of the local Eilat airport as a safety precaution, and a flight to the area from Ben Gurion International Airport was canceled. However, schools in Israel’s southernmost Negev city remained opened despite the rocket fire.
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Eilat was also struck by rocket fire a number of times last year in attacks launched from Sinai, at least one of which was claimed by an Islamist group calling itself Ansar Jerusalem.

Tunisia: Femen activist forced to flee country after posting topless pictures as a form of protest on Facebook

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

The woman who scandalised Tunisia by posting topless photos of herself as a form of feminist protest is now trying to leave the country, her former lawyer said Tuesday after a video surfaced in which the woman recounted being drugged and given virginity tests by relatives.

Amina Tyler, 19, shocked this Muslim nation when she posted Facebook photos with the words “my body belongs to me” scrawled across her naked chest. She was later spirited away by her family after religious hardliners issued death threats against her.

Bouchra Belhaj Hamida, Tyler’s former lawyer who has in the past acted as her spokeswoman, said Amina had escaped from her family in a village outside the capital and was now staying with friends as she gathered the necessary documents to get to France...

Indonesia: Imam arrested after admitting to raping one of his 8-year old students

A Koran recital teacher who is also an imam at a Tarakan mosque in East Kalimantan has been arrested after admitting to raping one of his students, an 8-year old girl.

The girl’s mother reported 40-year old Sul to the police upon learning of her daughter’s ordeal.

“According to the victim’s parent, the incident happened on Saturday [April 13]. The victim claimed that she was sexually abused by the suspect in the mosque after a Koran recital class,” Tarakan Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Desman S. Tarigan said on Tuesday.

“The parent only learned about it on Sunday after the child complained that she felt pain in her genitals.”

Desman said police immediately apprehended Sul, who admitted to the investigators that he raped the victim and was immediately named a suspect and detained.

A doctor’s examination also confirmed that the victim was suffering from internal bleeding and wounds due to the rape.

Investigators believe they may be more victims, because the suspect was teaching about 30 children, most of whom were girls.

“Based on reports from the public, this was not the first time that he has committed this, but that he has done this several times. We have asked the residents to file a report,” Deman said.

The suspect has been charged under Article 81(2) and Article 82 of Law No. 23/2002 on child protection. “It carries a 15-year punishment and that’s quite high,” he said...

US: $700,000 settlement deal expected in lawsuit against McDonald's over non-halal food

A judge is expected to finalize a $700,000 settlement between McDonald's and members of Michigan's Muslim community over claims a Detroit-area restaurant falsely advertised food as prepared according to Islamic law.

The hearing is set for Wednesday before Wayne County Circuit Judge Kathleen Macdonald. She's overseen the case and refereed objections from outside groups since a preliminary deal was announced in January.

Ahmed Ahmed, the Dearborn Heights man who represents plaintiffs in the class-action, claims he bought a chicken sandwich in September 2011 at a Dearborn McDonald's but found it wasn't halal...

UK: Terror suspect wanted in America can't be deported to the U.S. because 'it would be bad for his mental health'

Terror suspect and Broadmoor patient Haroon Aswat, the trusted lieutenant of radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, has won his legal battle to avoid being kicked out of Britain.

The extremist's proposed extradition to the United States would breach his human rights, the European Court of Human Rights ruled today.

Aswat, who claims to be a schizophrenic, is wanted by the U.S. authorities for plotting to set up a jihadi training camp in Bly, Oregon.

He had claimed that the jail term he might face in America – up to 50 years without parole – breached Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans ‘inhuman or degrading treatment’.

Today a Strasbourg court said they agreed with him because he has mental health problems.

Aswat had faced being sent to the Colorado Supermax prison, which is surrounded by desert, and known as the 'Alcatraz of the Rockies'.

It is home to 400 of America's most dangerous convicts, where they live in a cramped cell measuring 12ft by 7ft.

Hamza and four other terror suspects were extradited last year after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rejected their appeal against the move - but Aswat's case was adjourned to allow judges more time to consider his mental health.

Aswat, who was born in 1974 and is being treated for schizophrenia, claims that if he is extradited and convicted in the US he would be at risk of ill-treatment inside the so-called supermax prison ADX Florence, in Colorado.

The Strasbourg court published its decision today after it adjourned the case last April to obtain further submissions on the relevance of his schizophrenia to his claim...

UK: University probing Muslim group for enforcing segregation between men and women

A university is probing claims that some of its Muslim students are enforcing segregation between men and women, it emerged today.

Leicester University spoke of its concerns over photos showing hand-written signs requesting that male and female students sit in separate areas at a public talk by the university’s Islamic Society.

The meeting - which discussed God’s existence - was addressed by Islamic speaker Hamza Tzortzis, who speaks at various campuses and was involved in controversy at another university last month.

As reported by MailOnline, University College London banned his Islamic Education & Research Academy group from its campus after the organisation tried to segregate men and women during a debate.

The latest incident in Leicester saw A4 sheets of paper attached to an entrance door with the words ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ and arrows pointing in opposite directions, reported the Daily Telegraph.

The University of Leicester Islamic Society’s website also said in a separate notice that meetings are open to the public, but it has ‘segregated seating for brothers and sisters at all co-attended events’.

Leicester University officials told the Daily Telegraph that they would investigate the signs in the photos and ensure that nobody will be forced to sit apart in the future - unless it is their preference...

Belgium: Police raid 48 homes and detain six men suspected of recruiting fighters for Syria's civil war

Belgian police raided 48 homes across the country on Tuesday and detained six men after a year-long investigation into an Islamist group suspected of recruiting fighters for Syria's civil war.

Prosecutors said Fouad Belkacem, the leader of Sharia4Belgium, was one of the six, but declined to give details on the others, beyond saying one had returned wounded from Syria.

Prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt told a news conference that he and his colleagues were investigating whether Sharia4Belgium constituted a terrorist organisation, membership of which could lead to a jail term of up to 10 years.

"The investigation shows that Sharia4Belgium is part of a broad international jihadist movement," Van der Sypt said.

Foreign Islamist insurgents are increasingly playing a role in Syria's civil war, which started in March 2011 with street protests against the four-decade rule of the family of President Bashar al-Assad.

Sharia4Belgium is accused of giving ideological and combat training, organising violent activities in Belgium and recruiting Islamist fighters for conflicts abroad. Van der Sypt said prosecutors were aware of 33 people with links to the group who were either in or on their way to Syria.

"The recruitment occurred, for example, by youths being spoken to on the street and then invited to private meeting places in Antwerp," he said.

Police seized computers, mobile telephones and money in the house searches, mostly in the northern province of Antwerp.

The Syrian conflict pits the Sunni Muslim majority against Assad's supporters among his Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, and has prompted both Sunni and Shi'ite militants from elsewhere to fight in Syria.

Sharia4Belgium is a Salafist group opposed to Assad. Belkacem, who described himself as the spokesman for Sharia4Belgium, was convicted last year of inciting hatred and violence against non-Muslims and ordered to wear an electronic monitoring ankle band. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Pravin Char)
Belgium holds six suspects over Syria war recruitment
Thomson Reuters Foundation, April 16, 2013

US: 3 dead and at least 176 people injured in Boston marathon bomb attack, possibly the work of a "terrorist group, like al-Qaeda"

For updates on the same subject, click here.

Investigators have a suspect — a Saudi Arabian national — in the horrific Boston Marathon bombings, The Post has learned.

Law enforcement sources said the 20-year-old suspect was under guard at an undisclosed Boston hospital.

Fox News reported that the suspect suffered severe burns.

It was not immediately clear why the man was hospitalized and whether he was injured in the attack or in his apprehension.

The man was caught less than two hours after the 2:50 p.m. bombing on the finish line of the race, in the heart of Boston.


In addition, Boston police have surveillance video of someone bringing multiple backpacks to the blast site, according to CBS News.

Police also confirmed that there was a third explosion, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. It was not immediately clear how much damage was done or whether it was related to the bombings at the marathon finish line.

The library bombing occurred about 4:30 p.m. and more than a mile from the marathon.

A law enforcement source confirmed to The Post that 12 people were killed and nearly 50 were injured in today's blast.

PA: UNESCO silent as Hamas bulldozes world heritage site for terrorist training camp

In an urgent letter sent today to UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova (see letter below), UN Watch demanded immediate action to stop the Hamas bulldozing of a 3000-year-old Gaza harbor for use as a terrorist training camp, as reported today by Al Monitor Palestine Pulse. A copy was also sent to EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton calling on the EU to take action.

The partial destruction of the ancient Anthedon Harbor—which includes the ruins of a Roman temple and archaeological remains from the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras—comes exactly one year after the area was nominated by new UNESCO member state Palestine as a World Heritage site.

UN Watch, an independent Geneva-based monitoring group, called on Bokova to bring the issue before the UNESCO executive board now meeting in Paris.

Although the biannual UNESCO meeting, which runs until April 26, lists five agenda items concerning Palestinian issues—which US Ambassador Killion has described as “highly politicized” and designed to “single out Israel”—there is currently no scheduled discussion to address the month-long Hamas bulldozing of the proposed heritage site. UN Watch’s letter as sent today to Ms. Bokova and Lady Ashton follows below...

India: Hindu activist brutally hacked to death by five Muslims in Mumbai

A 28-year-old partyworker of Shiv Sena (A Hindu Right Wing Political Party mainly based in Maharashtra) was hacked to death by five persons near his residence in Sangamnagar in Antop hill area during the early hours of Monday.

Police stated that local goons killed Raju Mistrilal Soni as he did not pay heed to the extortion threats issued by them. Investigations revealed that the accused demanded money on day-to-day basis.

The incident occurred at around 4am on Monday when Raju stepped out of his house to fill water. Around five persons attacked him, police told. Police stated that Raju had opened another video-parlour a month ago. “The five accused were threatening Raju for money to run the video parlour.

“We are looking for the accused,” said Suresh Bhavar, senior police inspector of Wadala truck terminal police station. The names of the accused are Niyaz Hussain, Firoj Idrisi, Naseem Khan, Ibbu and Hafizul Bangali. Deceased Raju has been survived by his wife Rita (25), kids Sneha (6), and Golu (4). The accused were booked under sections 143 (punishment), 144 (joining unlawful assembly armed with deadly weapon), 146 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly is guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 302 (punishment for murder) and 386 (extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt) of the Indian Penal Code.

“Raju was a social worker. The goons demanded money from his to which he refused,” said Pramod Soni, brother of deceased. While local Sena men alleged that Raju was killed as he was against illegal slums coming up in the area, police refuted this theory.

Hindu Existence Adds: Mumbai has been treated as a safe dane of foreigner Bangladeshi Muslims along-with their Afghan, Pakistani and Myanmar Rohingya Muslims here and there. The main Muslim culprit Hafizul Bangali is a notorious criminal from Sirajgunj of Bangladesh and entered into India after 2007 to make a high network of anti-socials of Bangladeshi Muslims and their Kashmiri Counterparts to build a soft Mujahideen group to exploit Hindu Businessmen and to abduct Hindu girls under Love Jihad module.

Raju Mistrilal Soni was hacked at least thirteen times by sharpened swords, knifes and choppers etc. as ascertained by the injury report. Sriman Raju was a prominent Karyakarta in Sangamnagar in the capacity of Gatha-Pramukha (Group-leader)...

India: Teenager exposes the scale of Islamic sex tourism where Muslim men buy 'one month wives' for sex

The victim, Nausheen Tobassum, revealed the scale of the problem when she escaped from her home last month after her parents pressurised her to consummate a forced marriage to a middle aged Sudanese man who had paid around £1,200 for her to be his 'wife' for four weeks.

She told police she had been taken by her aunt to a hotel where she and three other teenager girls were introduced to a Sudanese oil company executive. The 'groom', Usama Ibrahim Mohammed, 44 and married with two children in Khartoum, later arrived at her home where a Qazi performed a wedding ceremony.

According to Inspector Vijay Kumar he had paid 100,000 Rupees (around £1,200) to the girl's aunt Mumtaz Begum, who in turn paid 70,000 Rupees to her parents, 5,000 Rupees to the Qazi, 5,000 Rupees to an Urdu translator and kept 20,000 Rupees herself. The wedding certificate came with a 'Talaknama' which fixed the terms of the divorce at the end of the groom's holiday.

"The next day he came to the house of the victim girl and asked her to participate in sex but she refused. She is a young girl and the groom is older than her father," Inspector Kumar said.

Her parents reassured him they would persuade their daughter and told her she would be punished if she did not. Instead she ran out of their tiny one room home in Hyderabad's Moghulpuri neighbourhood and was rescued by a police patrol. The police arrested the groom, the victim's aunt and the Qazi, and issued a warrant for her parents' arrest – Nausheen is a minor under Indian law and cannot marry until she reaches 18. Her parents are now in hiding but will be charged with arranging a child marriage, 'outraging the modesty' of a woman, and criminal conspiracy.

Inspector Kumar said there are dozens of illegal short term contract marriages in the city, and that the Sudanese man they arrested had come to Hyderabad after a friend in Khartoum told him he had taken a '40 day wife' during an earlier visit.

"If a Sudanese wants to have sex, he has to pay three times more [in Sudan] because there are far fewer girls there, or he takes a second wife. In India the girls are coming for a cheaper rate and they are beautiful. Even if they are only staying for a few days they are doing this kind of illegal marriages for sex," he said.

He said the visitors want to marry because they believe prostitution is forbidden under Islam. Poor families agree to contract marriages because they have many daughters and cannot afford to pay for all their weddings.

Instead, they have a series of one-month contract 'marriages' to fund their own genuine wedding.

Shiraz Amina Khan of Hyderabad's Women and Child Welfare Society, said there were up to 15 'contract marriages' in the city every month and that the number is rising because.

"They come to Hyderabad because it has maximum downtrodden families. Thirty to forty per cent of families are going for the option of contract marriages to relieve their poverty. It has to be stopped," she said.

Nausheen Tobassum, who is now living in a government home for girls said in an interview before she was placed in care, that she had filed a complaint to stop the same thing happening to other girls.

"I didn't know what was happening and I agreed in ignorance. They forced me. They changed my date of birth certificate and made a fake one, where I was shown as 24 years old. They exploit girls and that's why I went to police. I had to show courage to go to police against my parents. I don't want to go back to my home, I am scared," she said.

Turkey: World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say convicted for 'insulting Muslim values'

World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say has been given a suspended 10-month jail sentence for insulting Muslim values.

An Istanbul court found Say guilty over a series of posts on the social networking site Twitter.

Say was not in court for the sentencing. But he denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated.

The case renewed concern about the influence of religion on politics in Turkey.

Pointing to the prosecution of several artists and intellectuals for voicing their views, critics have accused the governing AK Party of undermining Turkey's secular values and pandering to Islamists.

Prosecutors had brought the charges against Mr Say last June. He could have faced a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison.

The indictment against him cited some tweets, including a retweet by Mr Say which says: "I am not sure if you have also realised it, but if there's a louse, a non-entity, a lowlife, a thief or a fool, it's always an Allah-ist."

Mr Say has previously said he was "amazed" at the charges...
An Istanbul court on Friday accepted a request for a retrial from Turkish pianist Fazil Say who was earlier this month sentenced for blasphemy over posts on social media, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

Say, a world-renowned pianist, was on April 15 handed a 10-month suspended jail term for insulting religious values, in a ruling that drew international criticism of Turkey's freedom of expression record.

The 43-year-old virtuoso, who has played with the philharmonic orchestras of Berlin, New York, Tokyo and Israel, was charged with inciting religious hatred and insulting Islamic values in a series of tweets.

The charges relate to tweets from April last year, including one where he said: “I am not sure if you have also realized it, but all the pricks, low-lives, buffoons, thieves, jesters, they are all Allahists.”...
World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say, who was sentenced to 10 months in prison for blasphemy in April, was again sentenced to 10 months by an Istanbul court today in a retrial, Hurriyet online reports quoting Dogan News Agency. Say had received a suspended 10-month prison sentence on charges of "insulting religious beliefs held by a section of the society," for re-tweeting several lines, which are attributed to poet Omar Khayyam. Say's lawyers had demanded his suspension be canceled. His demand had been accepted by the court, and the court had paved the way for Say to be re-tried...

Syria: Western backed rebels attack helicopter carrying food supplies, behead the pilots then grill them

As Syrians work hard to tell their message to the world, NATO aligned media and international organizations work hard to demonize the Syrian state and ignore horrific crimes committed by the barbaric savage Wahhabi Sex Jihadists airlifted from all sides of the planet by NATO member states and their stooges like the beacons of democracy and free speech Qatar & the Saudi Arabia, then smuggled into Syria to ‘democratize’ the country of the oldest civilization on the planet. Another country needs to be destroyed in order to control all sources of oil & gas in the world and their routes.

On Thursday, 11 April 2013, a Syrian Army helicopter transporting food supplies to villages and Army units besieged around Maarat Noman city in Idleb province when it was attacked by NATO’s best assets Al-Qaeda FSA terrorists not with chants of course calling for a better election law, but with latest weapons provided covertly and openly by their sponsors, and the plane was downed. On board 8 officers and soldiers, the terrorists rushed to the site of the downed helicopter, decapitated the pilots then GRILLED them.

A video clip released by the terrorists shows the head of the pilot in the above picture still intact on the ground, and burnt bodies of others but also shows quantities of bread on the ground to prove the helicopter was distributing food. We await confirmation from credible activists on the ground for further details.

The crime doesn’t stop here as the grilled heads were paraded throughout some of the towns and villages under the control of NATO’s ‘freedom fighters’ after sticking it to metal and wooden sticks.

More pictures and video footage will definitely come up through official sites of Al-Qaeda FSA terrorists hosted on social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, as they always brag about their heinous crimes with their impunity provided by the ‘international community’ as they’re fighting an ‘evil regime’; while many Syrian accounts on these platforms were shut down for not abiding by the ‘community standards’ of these mediums! We will keep an eye on these sites and try to update this piece on priority basis.

Ironically, Syrian based media were all banned in Europe, USA, Canada and other countries, Syrian state and private TV channels were all taken off air by a decision from the EU & the Arab League in order to cover on such crimes and promote their one line of news.

Just one article before was talking about the biased Human Rights Watch group and their reporting on the Syrian Crisis under: Syria: Human Rights Watch (HRW) with another Propaganda Stunt.
. . .

Turkey: President warns of Holocaust if intolerance towards different cultures and religions continues

European countries will face new humanitarian tragedies leading to mass killings of people if they continue in their failure to embrace tolerance toward different cultures and religions, President Abdullah Gül has warned.

“Islam and migrants have been a reality in Europe for centuries. As long as the continent of Europe doesn’t approach segments which are different from the majority with tolerance, particularly in regards to religion, an occurrence of new inquisitions and Holocausts, as well as incidents evoking Srebrenica, are probable,” Gül said yesterday.

His strongly worded remarks came as he delivered a keynote speech at the opening of a two-day international symposium on “Migration, Islam and Multiculturality in Europe” arranged by Hacettepe University’s Migration and Politics Research Center.

Racism and a lack of tolerance of different cultures and lifestyles are some of the chronic diseases in Western societies, Gül said, drawing attention to the increase in support for political parties which portray migrants as the main reason for societal problems in European countries such as safety, unemployment, crime and poverty.

“When politics begins ‘otherizing’ a segment, then we see the alienation of migrants and minorities from the country in which they live and from the society in which they live as an inevitable consequence. As seen in countless examples in history, countries which have been able to perpetuate societal and cultural diversity in unity and harmony have stood out in history. Correspondingly, countries which have exerted efforts to either destroy or put pressure on societal and cultural diversity due to different fears have first of all lost their human richness; subsequently, they have experienced a loss of economic and political power,” the president said.

“In this regard, although each country is responsible for producing its own authentic resolutions, showing respect for multiculturalism [is necessary],” he said.

“Racism and intolerance toward different cultures and lifestyles are unfortunately one of the most chronic diseases. Although this disease can be taken under control, it arises again, particularly during times of economic crisis,” he said...

Jordan: Pregnant woman's throat slit, belly cut open showing her four-month-old fetus and burned in honor killing

Jordanian police said on Sunday they found the burned body of a pregnant woman whose throat had been slit and belly cut open showing her four-month-old fetus, in an apparent "honor killing."

"We found the body of the woman at dawn in Ruseifeh (east of Amman). Her throat was slit in a hideous way. The body was burned after the murder," a police spokesman said.

"We believe it was an honor crime. The belly of the woman, who was in her twenties, was cut open and we could see her four-month-old unborn child, who was dead too. Investigations are still under way."

Between 15 and 20 women die in so-called "honor" murders each year in the Arab kingdom, despite government efforts to curb such crimes.

Murder is punishable by death in Jordan, but in "honor killings" courts can commute or reduce sentences, particularly if the victim's family asks for leniency.

Indonesia: Mentally ill patients held in chains

All around a compound at the Galuh Foundation there are men and women lying on wooden platforms that are doubling up as makeshift beds.

Many of them have been chained to their beds.

One man does push-ups in the corner, his feet tied by iron ropes to the side of his bed.

Another plays with the links on the chain, talking to himself, oblivious to the people around him.

Tucked away in a suburb of Jakarta, Galuh is a home for Indonesia's mentally ill.

It's not easy to find - hidden down a dirt road, behind a bunch of shacks and a horse shed.

When you enter, it's like walking back into the dark ages, leaving modern Indonesia behind.

The people who work at Galuh say at any given time about 10% of the 280 residents here are shackled - but they say it's for their own good.

I spot Ii in the corner. The young man sits quietly, with an almost yogic expression of calm on his face.

Wearing only a pair of shorts, he says nothing, does nothing, just sits. He has been shackled in Galuh for two weeks.

Terrible stench

Jaja Sudrajat, one of the workers at Galuh, told me Ii had only been put in chains temporarily.

"We use these chains just to be careful," he told me as he showed me around the foundation.

"We don't use any medication or anything like that, so when he's calmed down then we will let him out. He was also put in chains in his house and he's been to the psychiatric hospital, but he's always escaped - so his family brought him here."

Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote

We let them out of these chains every few days or so - once they stop being dangerous to themselves and others we let them out”

But workers at Galuh insist they do not practice shackling - known locally as pasung. The practice has been banned in Indonesia since 1979, and the Indonesian government launched a campaign in 2011 to eliminate it once and for all.

"We don't practice pasung," said Mr Sudradjat. "If we did, then these people wouldn't be able to move altogether.

"But we let them out of these chains every few days or so. Once they stop being dangerous to themselves and others we let them out.

"Then we put them back into the chains. It all depends on their mood."

The stench in Galuh is overwhelming, a mixture of human urine and faeces. As lunch is served, one of the workers sprays away the human waste with a hose, and inevitably people are hit by the splashes of the dirty water.

In the middle of the compound, there is a giant cage with huge metal grilles.

The cage is locked. Inside, there are about 30 or 40 people - many of them also chained, and without any clothes on. It is a depressing, disturbing place.

But it is also a place that is supported by the Indonesian government.

Galuh gets $10,000 in funding every year from the social welfare ministry, but the people who work here say that money covers fewer than half of the patients here.
. . .
Difficult problem

The BBC approached Indonesia's health ministry to find out why the government is funding an institution that still uses shackling when it has committed to eliminating it.

"Well in the first place, it is not the health ministry that funds Galuh - that's the social welfare ministry's job," said Diah Setia Utami, director of mental health at the health ministry.

"Of course we deeply regret these conditions. 2014 is our deadline for getting rid of shackling in Indonesia - but when I talk to these foundations they think shackling is the best method for their patients.

"And families still send their mentally ill relatives there. So it is a very difficult problem to fix."

For many Indonesians, seeing a family member afflicted with a mental disease is frightening and confusing - as it is for people around the world. But there is relatively far less information about mental illnesses in Indonesia than there may be in other, more developed countries.

Many uneducated Indonesians who live in rural areas believe that these ailments are a result of being the victim of a curse, or black magic.

With little or no education about mental illnesses, many resort to the practice of shackling, despite the fact that it's been banned for decades...

Iran: Imprisoned American pastor given ultimatum to deny Christ or remain in prison

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

An American pastor who was sentenced to eight years in an Iranian prison for planting house churches in the country says that officials in Iran have given him the ultimatum to either deny Christ or remain incarcerated.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been working for the pastor’s release, reports that they have obtained a new letter written by Saeed Abedini, which outlines the pressure that he is facing behind bars.

“‘Deny your faith in Jesus Christ and return to Islam or else you will not be released from prison. We will make sure you are kept here even after your 8 year sentence is finished.’ These are the threats that prison officials throw at me,” the pastor writes. “My response to them is Romans 8:35-39.”...

UK: One of the country’s most dangerous terror suspects must be allowed a 'normal social life', rules judge

A judge yesterday ordered strict curbs on a potential suicide bomber to be relaxed so he could enjoy a ‘normal social life’.

Mr Justice Wilkie said the alleged Al Qaeda fanatic ought to be able to mingle more freely with students at his university to avoid his ‘embarrassment and isolation’.

The constraints on the 24-year-old Somali man – considered one of the country’s most dangerous terror suspects – were ‘chilling’ and ‘disproportionate’, he said.

His High Court ruling ordering Home Secretary Theresa May to water down the restrictions deals a serious blow to the Government’s fight against terrorism.

And it comes despite fears by the security services that the man – known as CF – will contact other Islamic extremists to plot attacks against Britain.

The decision could lead to similar challenges by other terror suspects and may fuel concerns that the judiciary is chiselling away at measures to protect the UK from jihadists.

‘CF’ is one of nine people subject to Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) orders, introduced last year to restrict their movements, the use of computers and who they can meet.

The suspect, who is thought to have tried to get to Afghanistan for terrorist training and of fighting for the feared al-Shabaab group in Somalia, is only allowed to mix with undergraduates when it is ‘exclusively for the purpose of studies’.

But Mr Justice Wilkie said it was difficult for CF to avoid ‘informal social contact’ at lectures or the library. ‘They [the orders] must impose a chilling effect on CF’s participation in the life of a student on this course without any, apparent, beneficial effect on national security,’ he added.

However, he threw out a bid by CF to own an MP3 player and have his curfew cut.

In June last year, CF was charged with repeatedly breaking a strict ban on visiting the Olympic Games venue in Stratford, east London. He was not prosecuted...

Indonesia: Muslim 'hard-liners' and local residents attack three Ahmadiyah Mosques, 3 hours after forced closure

Three Ahmadiyah mosques in Cianjur, West Java, were shut down and damaged by a group of Islamic hard-liners and local residents on Friday, the latest act of intolerance in the province.

Firdaus Mubarik, a spokesman from the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI), told the Jakarta Globe on Saturday that police officers and soliders witnessed all three incidents but did nothing to stop members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) from attacking the mosques that were located in three different subdistricts in Cianjur — Campaka, Ciparay and Neglasari.

“Three mosques, located close to each other, were sealed and damaged in less than three hours yesterday,” Firdaus explained. “They also shut down our mosque in Ciparay. Some of them threw stones at the windows, door and the roof tiles. The police were there, but did nothing to stop them. A police officer named Dedi from the Campaka Police even was the one that placed an announcement stating that activities of the mosque should be terminated.”

Prior to the attacks, an Ahmadiyah member, Jamal, was summoned to the Campaka subdistrict’s office to explain why his shop had been built without a permit. Jamal reportedly could not afford a permit as a local official had allegedly asked him to pay Rp 4 million.

But when Jamal arrived at the office, hundreds of FPI members were waiting. While the issue was originally about Jamal not holding a valid permit to operate his shop, some 300 FPI members decided to march from the office to the Ahmadiyah mosque in the Campaka subdistrict to shut down the place of worship. The FPI members placed a plank of wood on the door to prevent people from entering the mosque.

Firdaus explained that after members of the FPI shut down the mosque in Ciparay, they continued to Neglasari to shut down another mosque. He claimed that Adj. Sr. Comr. Lanjar Guntoro, the intelligent head of the Cianjur Police, witnessed the attack but did nothing.

Firdaus added that when they told the hard-liners that they had no legal right to close down the mosques, an FPI member told the Ahmadis that they were simply just helping the police.

Meanwhile, the government and police officers said that they were only on-site to prevent any big clashes between the Ahmadiyah and the FPI.

In 2005, all three mosques were attacked by hard-liners and more than 60 houses belonging to Ahmadis were destroyed. More houses owned by Ahmadis in Cianjur were set on fire several years later, however the perpetrators remain unknown.

Firdaus said that in 2011, the government placed an announcement in front of all Ahmadiyah mosques forbidding members from spreading the Ahmadiyah teachings...

India: Muslims offended and hurt by TV cooking show featuring a pork dish

Doordarshan's popular Urdu channel has landed in the soup with many Muslim viewers by airing a cooking show featuring a pork dish.

In its April 9 episode, DD Urdu's series 'Taste Ki Baat Hai' (Talk of Taste) presented a recipe with pork and went on to speak of its deliciousness.

The programming was criticized by some for being "in poor taste". A section of community leaders and scholars said since the majority of DD Urdu's viewers were Muslims, the channel had displayed a lack of "sensitivity" by showing a dish of pork, which is "haram" (forbidden) in Islam.

"An Urdu channel does not cater to Muslims alone, but it should be careful not to air a show that hurts the religious sentiments of a section of its viewers," said professor Akhtarul Wasey, who teaches Islamic studies at Jamia Millia Islamia University. "This could have been avoided."
. . .
Islamic scholars said articles in the media and television shows should not be seen from a religious prism, but the media should "exercise self-censorship when it comes to religious sensibilities".

"There is no ban on people's tastes," said Islamic scholar Zeenat Shaukat Ali. "There is no ban on people's tastes. But if DD Urdu is viewed by a large number of Muslims, it should not have featured a cooking show on pork since the Quran forbids its consumption, and no Muslim will appreciate any session detailing the preparation of a pork dish."

Some commentators wondered how the episode slipped through scrutiny before being broadcast. "DD Urdu is becoming popular among Urdu-wallas," said activist and Urdu columnist Firoz Bakht Ahmed. "I'm surprised nobody pointed out the potential hurt it would cause to Muslim viewers before the show got aired."

Egypt: Al-Qaeda targets children through video game set to current conflict in northern Mali

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is changing its strategy to target children at an early age to lure them to its radical ideology.

To do this, the group is using new methods deemed to be more capable of attracting children's attention such as video games that include a clear strategy to show the group's ability to win wars against international forces.

On March 26th, published a picture from a jihadist forum showing a video game designed by AQIM.

The game has a military aircraft carrying AQIM's black flag while hitting and destroying French aircraft in the Sahara where battles are raging against the terrorists in northern Mali.

The website said that the game, "Muslim Mali", displays the message "Congratulations, you have become martyrs!" in lieu of "Game Over" when a player loses all their lives.

Journalist Abi Ould Zidan visited Timbuktu while the radical groups were controlling it last year.

"Children usually represent significant numbers of recruits at training camps in Timbuktu," he told Magharebia.

Citing Ansar al-Din spokesperson Sanad Ould Bouamama, he added that the group justified the recruitment of children based on a certain religious interpretation of some hadiths.

However, the exploitation of children by jihadists did not surprise many after adolescents were recently arrested in Ifoghas Mountains.
. . .
Since al-Qaeda was keen on exploiting all means of communication in order to attract the biggest possible number of sympathisers, it created an account on Twitter to post its statements and tweets.
. . .
"Although al-Qaeda usually uses the internet… to pass on its speech and express its opinions and positions, it is also certainly using social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter because it realises that children have a presence on these websites," Mauritanian researcher Bechir Ould Mohamed said...

Kashmir: Two Christians arrested on false charges of forced conversions after Muslim mob attacked 9 Britons, including 2 children

"The anti-Christian intolerance in Jammu and Kashmir is reaching alarming proportions" is the complaint of Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), after the arrest of two Christians in Srinagar, the capital of Indian state, on false charges of forced conversions. The arrest took place on April 10 last, after a Muslim mob attacked two men, five women and two children, all of British origin.

The foreigners had been living for about four years Shivpora, a district of Srinagar. According to local residents one of them, James Thomas, was engaged in conversion activities. So, two days ago a large group of people attacked the Christians, threw stones at their vehicles and tried to destroy their house. The intervention of the police prevented the demolition and the wounding of those present, but officials arrested James and Alora Milli to clarify the charges against them.

The police have impounded the building and evacuated the foreigners. The local imam told police that he had repeatedly asked the foreigners not to convert Muslims, but to no avail. "Now - he added - they can no longer access the area. And even if they try to convert anyone, I will prevent it at all costs."

"The false and defamatory accusations of the Imam - says Sajan George - and the complicity of the police in arresting these Christians are a serious threat to religious freedom, a right guaranteed by the Constitution of India."

Jammu and Kashmir is the only Muslim-majority state of India where religious intolerance frequently occurs. This past January, a group of foreign tourists risked being lynched after the publication of some posts on Facebook. An exemplary case dates back to 2011, when the Rev. Chander Mani Khanna, pastor of All Saints Anglican Church, was arrested for having baptized seven Muslims and then indicted by an Islamic court (which has no legal authority in the State or in India, ed) for proselytism and forced conversions.

Bangladesh: Three dead, 50 injured in clashes when local mosque broadcasted calls for attacks on anti-shutdown procession

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

Three people had died and at least 50 received injuries in the clashes on Thursday afternoon when a local mosque - in Bhujpur area's Kazir Haat area of the Upazila - broadcast calls for attack on an anti-shutdown procession of the ruling Awami League.

Awami League leader ATM Peyarul Islam had identified two bodies as those of 'Lokman' and 'Jamal', both from Bhujpur and activists of the local unit of Bangladesh Chhatra League.

The Awami League leader and the Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH) Police Outpost Constable Pankaj Barua identified the third as Faruk Iqbal Bipul, 40, who succumbed in the hospital.

Local Jamaat chief and 33 others were injured, said an official of the Assistant Superintendent of Police rank seeking anonymity. Bhujpur Jamaat chief and Bhujpur UP Chairman Shafiul Alam Nuri were among those detained.

The UP Chairman was said to have led the attack on the Awami League procession. Bhujpur police was preparing to file a case over the deaths, he said.

Meanwhile prohibitory orders (Section 144), banning all forms of gathering were imposed in the area. Paramilitary Border Guard Battalion (BGB) were patrolling the area.

The Islami Chhatra Shibir, student affiliate of the Jamaat-e-Islami, had called the Thursday's shutdown demanding release of their central President Delwar Hussen.

Local Awami League brought out an anti-shutdown procession in the area. The mosque broadcast calls for attack on the procession came around 1:30pm.

The broadcast was said have called for resisting the procession, which was approaching ‘to launch an attack on a madrassa adjacent to the mosque’, ASP AFM Nizam Uddin of Hathazari circle said quoting witnesses.

At least 15 motorcycles and two jeeps were set ablaze at scene, police said.

Two people were killed on the spot and at least 50 others, including policemen, were injured. Another succumbed to injuries at the CMCH.
Fatickchharhi violence: 34 held
BD News 24, April 12, 2013

UK: Christian woman sacked after Muslim harassment granted application to appeal

A Christian worker who was dismissed from her job at Heathrow Airport has been granted permission to challenge a ruling by an employment tribunal which left her without any rights under employment law.

Last year, an Employment Tribunal found that Nohad Halawi was not technically employed, so she had no protection under employment law, despite the fact she had worked at Heathrow for 13 years.

But the Employment Appeal Tribunal in London has allowed this decision to be appealed.


Mrs Halawi worked at a duty free shop at Heathrow Terminal 3. But management took away her ‘airside pass’ – meaning she was unable to continue working at the airport – after Muslim colleagues made unsubstantiated complaints about her conduct.

Mrs Halawi had stood up for a Christian colleague who was being harassed by Islamist staff.

She had verbally complained to management over personal abuse and harassment from Islamist staff members over her Christian faith.

22 of Mrs Halawi’s colleagues, including other Muslims, signed a petition which stated:

“We are shocked and saddened by the recent dismissal of our colleague and friend, Nohad, as a result of malicious and unfounded allegations made against her.”

Last year, Mrs Halawi asked the Christian Legal Centre (CLC) for support. CLC instructed leading human rights barrister, Paul Diamond, to represent her.

Employment Tribunal

At the hearing in April 2012, the Employment Tribunal heard evidence that Mrs Halawi’s working patterns and performance were very tightly controlled by World Duty Free (WDF) and Caroline South Associates (CSA), indicating that she was employed.

However, the Judge preferred the evidence of WDF and CSA, who argued that she was self-employed and therefore had no protection. The removal of her airside pass and loss of her employment was non judiciable.

The case was then taken to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Employment Appeal Tribunal

Mr Diamond argued at the Employment Appeal Tribunal that Mrs Halawi was an employee under European law, and as such should be protected from discrimination.

He also argued that the Employment Tribunal should have considered the relationship which existed between Mrs Halawi and WDF and CSA as the basis for allowing her to be deemed an ‘employee’, or a ‘worker’ under European law.

Mrs Halawi’s case for unfair dismissal and discrimination can only properly be considered if she is found to have employment rights. The result of this Employment Appeal Tribunal hearing brings her a step closer to a thorough consideration of this.

Next hearing

At the next hearing (date to be decided) the Employment Appeal Tribunal will consider her situation while she was working at Terminal 3 and whether she should be viewed as an employee by the law or protected as a worker.

Then, depending on the result, she may be given another opportunity to explain how she was treated and the bullying she experienced at the hands of radical Islamist colleagues...

Turkey: 13th-century Church Hagia Sophia, which is now a museum, will be converted into a mosque

One of the most important monuments of late Byzantium, the 13th-century Church of Hagia Sophia in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, which is now a museum, will be converted into a mosque, after a legal battle that has dramatic implications for other major historical sites in Turkey. Many in Turkey believe that the Church of Hagia Sophia is a stalking horse for the possible re-conversion of its more famous namesake in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia Museum (Ayasofya Müzesi).

For around 50 years, responsibility for the Church of Hagia Sophia in Trabzon has rested with Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The courts now accept the claim made by the General Directorate of Pious Foundations, the government body responsible for most of the country’s historical mosques, that this has been an “illegal occupation”. The court has ruled that Hagia Sophia is an inalienable part of the foundation of Sultan Mehmed II who first turned the church into a mosque after his conquest of the Empire of Trebizond in 1462.

“A building covenanted as a mosque cannot be used for any other purpose,” says Mazhar Yildirimhan, the head of the directorate’s office in Trabzon. He declined to speculate on whether this would mean covering up nearly half the wall space taken up with figurative Christian art, including the dome depicting a dynamic Christ Pantocrator. “There are modern techniques for masking the walls,” he says.
. . .
“It is the whole ensemble—architecture, sculpture and painting—that makes Hagia Sophia unique,” says Antony Eastmond of London’s Courtauld Institute of Art, who is an authority on the building. “This is the most complete surviving Byzantine structure; there is no 13th-century monument like it.”

Concern for the building is prompted by the fate of Istanbul’s Arab Mosque—originally a 14th-century Dominican church—also administered by the directorate. An earthquake in 1999 shook loose plaster from the vaults revealing frescoes and mosaics. The conservation of these paintings was finished last year but they were immediately re-covered.

Like its namesake in Trabzon, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was also turned into a mosque, after Mehmed II’s conquest of the city in 1453. It was famously made into a museum in 1935 by cabinet decree—unlike the informal arrangement in Trabzon. The re-conversion of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia into a mosque has long been the “golden apple” sought by Turkey’s religious right.

For such a thing to happen would have major implications for the country’s standing as a custodian of world heritage, according to one senior Western diplomat based in Istanbul.

Yet already the current government has been working on a list of historical properties administered by the Hagia Sophia Museum. In January, Istanbul’s oldest surviving church, the fifth-century St John Stoudios, which became the Imrahor Mosque in the 15th century before fire and earthquake left it in ruins, was transferred from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to the General Directorate, which plans to rebuild it as a mosque...
Mosque conversion raises alarm
The Art Newspaper., April 11, 2013

UK: Over 2,000 terrorist arrests, plots and attacks in the UK from 2001-2010

International terrorism is a nationwide problem. Those involved in international terrorism are not associated with any single area of the UK, and individuals convicted of terrorist offences have lived in many different parts of the country. Terrorists have sought to target a variety of locations. Attacks related to international terrorism have occurred in London and Glasgow, and thwarted terrorist plots have been aimed at targets outside the capital.

Terrorist attacks in the UK

The Security Service, police and other UK agencies work together to identify terrorist plots and bring their authors to justice. Our combined efforts have achieved a number of notable successes. However, as the former Director General of the Security Service, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller said in 2006, "we will continue to stop most [terrorist attacks], but we will not stop all of them." Several attacks linked to international terrorism have taken place over the last few years, notably:

  • 7 July 2005

Four suicide bombers attacked the London transport system, killing themselves and 52 other people.

  • 21 July 2005

Four more suicide bombers attempted to carry out another series of attacks on the London transport system but failed. They were subsequently apprehended and sentenced to life imprisonment in July 2007.

  • 29-30 June 2007

After an unsuccessful attempt to bomb a nightclub in central London, two terrorists attempted to carry out a suicide attack on Glasgow International Airport. One subsequently died of his injuries and the other, Bilal Abdulla, was arrested and given a life sentence in January 2008.

  • 22 May 2008

Mohammed Abdul Aziz Rashid Saeed, also known as Nicky Reilly, accidentally detonated an explosive device in the toilet of an Exeter restaurant as he prepared to carry out a terrorist attack. He was later imprisoned for life.

Arrests and convictions

Between 11 September 2001 and 31 March 2010, 237 individuals have been convicted of terrorism-related offences, including murder, illegal possession of firearms and explosives offences. 1,834 people have been arrested under the Terrorism Act during this period. As of 31 March 2010, 102 prisoners were classified as terrorists, 73 per cent of whom were UK nationals. For more statistical information on the operation of police powers under the Terrorism Act, see the Home Office Statistical Bulletin of 28 October 2010.

Notable terrorist convictions up to the end of 2010 have included the following cases. For more information on each, please click on the links to see statements by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. (All links will open in a new window.)
. . .

Security Service MI5, April 11, 2013

US: American Hindus protest outside White House, asking President Barack Obama to protect Hindus in Bangladesh

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

Protesting against the rise in violence against minorities in Bangladesh, Hindus of Bangladeshi-origin have gathered outside the White House here, asking US President Barack Obama to protect them and enlist radical Jamat-e-Islami as a foreign terrorist group.

Raising slogans like "We do not want Talibanisation of Bangladesh" and "Save Hindus", Bangladeshi American Hindus in a memorandum asked Obama to save the religious minorities of Bangladesh and enlist "Jamat-e-Islami, Bangladesh" as a foreign terrorist organisation.

"We are urging everyone to be united in outrage and by humanity and do all you can to save the endangered minorities of Bangladesh," the memorandum said as the protestors demanded enactment of hate crime laws by the Bangladeshi Government.

They also demanded establishment of a monitoring cell with prosecutorial authority to monitor, prevent, and prosecute all communal incidents; and creation of a minority welfare ministry with authority to create a special police force drawn from the minority populace. The peaceful protest rally was organized by the supported Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, with support from various other organizations like Hind American Foundation and the Indian American Intellectual Forum.

"Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, USA is calling upon the civilized world to come to the protection of these innocent and peaceful people who have committed no other wrongs than belonging to faiths other than what the terrorists would choose for them. They can count on no one and go nowhere," the statement said...
Barack Obama asked to protect Hindus in Bangladesh
The Indian Express, April 11, 2013

Pakistan: Hindu girls abducted and forced to marry Muslims

The kidnapping of Manisha Kumari on August 7 had sparked widespread concern in the minority community amidst reports of the exodus of several Hindu families from the region.

A 14-year-old Hindu girl, who was kidnapped from Jacobabad city in Pakistan's southern Sindh province, has been forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man, her father claimed today.

The kidnapping of Manisha Kumari on August 7 had sparked widespread concern in the minority community amidst reports of the exodus of several Hindu families from the region.

Manisha's father Rewat Mal said his daughter had telephoned him from an unknown location yesterday and said she had converted to Islam and changed her name to Mahwish.

Rewat Mal said Manisha had also told him that she had married a man named Ghulam Mustafa Channa.

"She can never give up her religion. She has been coerced into doing it," he told reporters in Jacobabad.

He contended that someone had forced Manisha to phone him and inform him about the conversion.

"If such things can happen to a 14-year-old girl, how can we go on living in Pakistan? I can't show my face to anyone," he said.

Sanjay Singh, an uncle of Manisha, said her voice had wavered while she was speaking on the telephone and it appeared that someone who was with her was coercing her.

"She sounded scared on the phone. There were people around her dictating things to her, we could hear them giving her instructions," he said.

The minorities would have no option but to move to India, Singh said.

Sources told PTI that Manisha had reportedly been taken to Sukkur after being kidnapped. She was forced to convert shortly after being kidnapped, they said.

Special Superintendent of Police Younis Chandio said police were on the trail of the abductors and hopeful of tracing Manisha soon.

Police registered a case against three unidentified men following the kidnapping.

Sindh, which has a sizeable population of Hindus, has been rocked by several instances of Hindu women being allegedly forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men this year.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court took up the case of three women – Rinkle Kumari, Lata Kumari and Asha Kumari – who were allegedly forced to convert and marry Muslims.

After a controversial hearing of the matter, the court gave the women the right to decide their future and they chose to go with their husbands.

However, the women's relatives alleged they had been under pressure even during their appearances in the apex court...

Bangladesh: Two arrested over Facebook posts 'hurting religious sentiment of Muslims'

Two cousins were arrested and sent to jail in Sylhet yesterday, as one of them had allegedly posted on Facebook deprecating comment and a caricature hurting religious sentiment of Muslims while the other “liked” those.

Acting on a tip off, a joint team of detectives and Biswanath police arrested Bijoy Chanda, 21, student of Sylhet MC College, from the city’s Subidbazar area and his cousin Partho Sarothi, 20, student of a private university, from Bairagibazar area.

With the duo’s detention, the number of total arrestees in connection with hurting Islamic sentiment via social network rose to six.

Police had earlier arrested bloggers Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Russel Parvez, Mashiur Rahman Biplob and Asif Mohiuddin on similar grounds. A Dhaka court yesterday sent the four to jail on completion of their remand. The information gleaned from them is now being verified.

The government yesterday directed Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to beef up monitoring on Facebook, especially on Basherkella page and some other sites. It asked BTRC to block those if any offensive content is posted there. Bijoy and Partho were arrested after Golam Shahid, a friend of Bijoy and resident of Goahari village under Biswanath Police Station, had filed a case under special power act, said Superintendent of Sylhet police Mohammad Shakhawat Hossain.

A source in the police said noticing the comment Shahid had informed some locals of the matter on Tuesday. The news spread fast and around 10:00 that night agitated locals brought out a procession demanding exemplary punishment to the cousins.

Meanwhile, Partho’s mother Rita Rani Das has claimed that Bijoy made the derogatory comment on Facebook, but her son is innocen
2 held for anti-Islam comments
The Daily Star, April 11, 2013

Pakistan: Police watch as Christian neighborhood ransacked by Muslim mob, hours after court condemned them for not intervening in Joseph Colony attack

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

A Muslim mob attacked Christian-owned shops and a church in the Francis Colony of Gujranwala, Pakistan on Wednesday following a dispute between Christian youth and a Muslim cleric a day earlier. The violence occurred only a few hours after Pakistan’s Supreme Court condemned police for not intervening in anti-Christian riots on March 9 that resulted in some 180 Christian homes being torched in the Joseph Colony of Lahore. The court’s admonishment, however, appeared to be disregarded by police who again failed to protect Christian property from being destroyed by a violent mob, advocates say.

Local Muslims, including a cleric, rebuked several Christian youth for playing music deemed un-Islamic too loudly while driving by a mosque in an auto-rickshaw on April 2. Some reports indicate that the music led to a “brawl” between the Christians and Muslims, while other sources suggest that the boys turned off the music and went on their way. In either case, rumors spread that the boys had disrespected Islam and should be punished.

“The cleric raised a clamor and accused the boys of showing disrespect to Islam,” Pervaiz Masih, a resident of Francis Colony in Gujranwala, told Pakistan Today. “As word spread of the incident, we immediately went to the police post in our colony and shared our security concerns with them. The police told us not to worry and assured us that they would contain the situation but no measures were taken.”

The next day, a Muslim mob from the nearby Naroki village attacked Christian-owned shops and property in the Francis Colony of Gujranwala and hurled stones at the local Catholic Church. At least five Christians were injured in the violence. Despite assurances by local police that Christians in the colony would be protected, few measures were taken to contain the mob while it ransacked the Christian neighborhood.

“The police was doing what it does best – nothing!” Asif Barkat, who received minor injuries in the assault, told Morning Star News. “Their bias towards Christians is quite evident, because when the Muslims were raiding our church and property, they just watched, but when we confronted them, they started hitting us with batons and used live ammunition to deter us.”

The incident was the second time in the past month that police stood by while Muslims destroyed Christian property. Only hours prior to the attack, Pakistan’s Supreme Court denounced police for failing to protect Christians in the Joseph Colony of Lahore on March 9 when an enraged mob burned and looted some 180 Christian homes following accusations that a Christian man had blasphemed Islam.

“Is the Punjab government not ready to take risk for protection of Christians?” asked Justice Azmat Saeed during the Supreme Court hearing. “It’s disturbing and upsetting … you cannot punish a community and desecrate their churches.”

Some believe police failed to protect the community because they sympathize with extremists and share the same ideology, which views Christians as inferior to Muslims. When policemen in riot gear were asked by a reporter why they allowed the mob to destroy Christian-owned property in Joseph Colony, they responded, “[Because] these are choorhas.” ‘Choorhas’ is a derogatory term that refers to “the severe caste-based discrimination prevalent in [Pakistan where] Muslims maintain that Christians/choorhas (used interchangeably) are ‘untouchables’ (meaning a lower caste),” Hashim bin Rashid, the general secretary of the Awami Workers Party in Lahore, wrote in an op-ed published by Pakistan Today. “It was as if police had invited the mob to ransack, loot and burn Joseph Colony as they stood and watched.”

Support for Islamic extremism is widespread in Pakistan and transcends beyond the country’s police forces. According to a recent survey conducted by the British Council, 38 percent of Pakistani youth support Sharia (Islamic law) as the best legal system to govern the country. Rights advocates claim that Sharia plays into the hands of extremists, including the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda, and is often used to persecute religious minorities.

Support for extremist ideology was clearly seen in Wednesday’s assault when a simple disagreement between Muslims and Christian youth was enough to stir religious fervor and escalate into a full-blown attack against an entire Christian community. “The dispute had no religious background; however the Muslim attackers tried to turn it to a religious conflict, which we condemn,” Nadeem Bashir Ghazi, a local activist, told ICC. “Christians are peace-loving people and do not want religious conflicts with their fellow countrymen. April 3rd will be remembered as a ‘black day’ in the history of Francis Colony.”

Tunisia: Muslims storm school and attack superintendent after it bars veiled student

Radical Muslims burst into a Tunisian school on Wednesday and assaulted its chief after he barred entry to a teenage girl wearing a face veil, or niqab, teachers said, an incident that underlined rising Islamist-secularist tensions.

Since secular dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in the first "Arab Spring" uprising two years ago, Tunisia has seen mounting strife between secularists who long held power and Islamists whose influence is increasing.

Moderate Ennahda Islamists who won a free election now head the Tunis government. But hardline Salafists are pushing for Islam to be made the law of the land, raising secularist fears for a loss of individual freedoms, women's rights and democracy.

Murad Ben Hamouda of the teachers' union at Manzel Bouzelfa secondary school said Salafists stormed into the compound, smashed a few cars and "tried to kill the director for refusing the entry of a schoolgirl dressed in niqab into the classroom".

School superintendent Abdelwahed Sentati was beaten with sticks and stones, suffering several broken bones, Hamouda said, and the assailants then fled. There have been no arrests, and interior ministry police had no immediate comment.

How many Salafists were involved in the attack was not immediately clear. But teachers said dozens of radicals lingered on the premises afterwards, chanting anti-secular slogans.

Khalifa Dhif, another teacher, said classes at the school and others in Manzel Bouzelfa had been suspended in protest at the assault and the union was considering a strike.

After fierce and extended debate, the education ministry decided last year to preserve a classroom ban on women wearing the full face veil of strict Muslims.

Manzel Bouzelfa is around 45 km (28 miles) east of the capital Tunis and near Hammamet, a well-known tourist resort.
. . .
Last year, hundreds of Islamists demanding segregated school classes and the right of women to wear full-face veils at university clashed with secular students near Tunis.
. . .
Salafists prevented concerts and plays from being staged in several Tunisian cities last year, declaring that they violated Islamic principles. Hardline Islamists also ransacked the U.S. Embassy in September during worldwide Muslim protests over an Internet video they said insulted the Prophet Mohammed.

Pakistan: Christian man sentenced to death for 'blasphemy' declared innocent and freed after 7 years

A Christian man sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan has been freed by an appeals court, but Muslim-Christian strife continues to flare up in the volatile Islamic nation.

Media reports differ on the exact circumstances of Younis Masih’s 2005 arrest for allegedly blaspheming Islam’s prophet Muhammad, which is punishable by life in prison or death.

Morning Star News, a news service that reports on persecution issues such as blasphemy laws, said Masih had asked local Muslims who were singing a religious song to do so more quietly, and a mob beat him unconscious the next day.

World Watch Monitor, another news service focusing on persecution issues, cited the Lahore-based Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement’s description of the case: Masih – under the influence of drugs – got into an argument with a Muslim imam who was leading a worship service at a neighboring home. The next day, Masih threw bricks at the imam’s door. Muslims subsequently beat Masih and his wife, and the imam accused Masih of blasphemy.

Both sources agreed that the conflict spread when Muslim mobs attacked Christian homes in the area.

Masih denied that he blasphemed Muhammad, but he was convicted and sentenced to death in 2007. According to World Watch Monitor, Masih’s sentence was appealed, and his attorney presented evidence that the original conviction was based on hearsay. On April 3, an appeals court in Lahore overturned Masih’s death sentence and declared him innocent.

Masih’s release comes three months after Rimsha Masih (no relation), a teenage girl accused of blasphemy, was freed by Pakistan’s Supreme Court, which agreed with a lower court that Masih had been framed by a local imam. The case triggered worldwide attention on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which critics claim are often abused to settle personal scores, often among Muslims. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 16 people are on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy and another 20 are serving life sentences.

Among those jailed: Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who has been imprisoned since 2009, convicted after a dispute with local Muslim women who later accused her of insulting Muhammad.

Islamists defend the blasphemy laws and militants have been known to murder anyone accused of blasphemy. Two high-ranking Pakistani officials – Minister of Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab governor Salman Taseer – were gunned down simply for criticizing the laws.

Pakistan’s small Christian community is especially vulnerable to blasphemy accusations. Christians make up less than 3 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people, with less than 1 percent considered evangelical/followers of Christ.

‘Blasphemy’ & local tumult

Accusations of blasphemy also fueled Pakistan’s latest case of Muslim violence against Christians. According to Morning Star News, irate Muslims attacked a Christian neighborhood at Francis Colony in the northeast Pakistani city of Gujranwala, injuring at least five Christians as well as damaging a church, shops and vehicles.

Local Christians told Morning Star News the trouble began April 3 when three Christian youths were riding home in a rickshaw taxi with four Muslim passengers. A request by the youth to listen to music – which the Muslim passengers said was forbidden in Islam – turned into a scuffle.

Muslim youths subsequently formed a mob trying to provoke Francis Colony residents, who ignored them and stayed home. Christian elders went to the local police and said they were assured that violence would be prevented and the matter would be resolved peacefully.

But, according to Morning Star News, a mob of 500 to 700 Muslims later came from a nearby village and assaulted the neighborhood with firearms and clubs. Police reportedly exchanged some shots with the armed attackers but otherwise stood by as the violence raged.

“They were just looking on as the Muslim boys broke our shops and vehicles,” Babar Masih, a local Christian, told Morning Star News. “No one tried to stop the mobs from damaging our property, so some of us took out our weapons and started firing into the air to scare them away. Our boys also came on the roads and confronted the Muslims with batons and sticks.”

Aneeqa Maria Akhtar, a Christian lawyer who heads The Voice Society advocacy group, told Morning Star that before the clashes, mosque loudspeakers were used to call for Muslims to “teach the Christians a lesson,” but the police did nothing.

“They let it happen,” she said. “Timely action by the police would have contained the situation.”

According to Morning Star, Gujranwala Division Police Chief Amin Vaince said he has ordered the local police post shut down and officers will be disciplined for negligence.

“The police’s job is to serve the people,” Vaince said. “It’s quite clear that the police did not do their job, resulting in damage to property and injuries to some people. However, we will get to the bottom of things, and those responsible for disturbing interfaith harmony would be dealt with an iron hand.”

Pakistani media outlets gave a different picture of the events leading up to the violence, characterizing it as a dispute between a Muslim religious leader and Christians who were playing music too loud. One outlet said Christians started the violence by damaging houses and torturing a Muslim prayer leader who asked them to turn their music down.

The violence came the same day that Pakistan’s Supreme Court took police to task for standing by during a March 9 riot in Lahore’s Joseph Colony, a poor Christian area where Muslim mobs burned down nearly 200 homes, 16 shops and two churches. Christians marched in Lahore the following day to protest the attack and the blasphemy law.

The havoc arose after two friends, one Christian and the other Muslim, got into a drunken argument. Police warned residents to evacuate that night but most disregarded the warning, not believing anything would come from the argument. When the Christian was accused of blasphemy and a furious mob descended on the community the next day, the police stood by and watched the destruction.

A Punjab official, Hanif Khatana, admitted the police intentionally did nothing.

“The religiously charged mob was avoided by police, for if any of them got killed, the issue might have been blown out of proportion and spread all across the country," Khatan argued, according to Morning Star.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, however, was not impressed with Khatana's line of reasoning.

“Do you mean whenever there is a charged mob, the police should shy away from confronting them?” Chaudhry said, according to Morning Star. “Should we leave the SC building if any mob attacks and take shelter in Judges Colony?”

Justice Azmat Saeed also challenged Khatana’s statement.

“Is the Punjab government not ready to take risk for protection of Christians?” he inquired, according to Morning Star. “It’s disturbing and upsetting ... you cannot punish a community and desecrate their churches.”...

Kuwait: 10-year prison sentence for those who insult the Qur’an, Prophet Muhammad, his wives, his companions and other prophets

The Cabinet approved the unified media law during a recent session which was headed by First Deputy and Acting Premier, and Minister of Interior Sheikh Ahmad Al-Humoud, reports Al-Anba daily quoting reliable sources.

They disclosed that the new law proposes a penalty of 10-year imprisonment for those who launch offensive phrases against the divine entity, the Qur’an, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), his wives, his family and companions, and prophets in general.

They explained that a fine between KD 50,000 to KD 300,000 will be imposed on those who criticize HH the Amir and HH the Crown Prince or even publish any speeches in their names without obtaining written permission from the Amiri Diwan or the Diwan of HH the Crown Prince.

They further explained that a fine between KD 10,000 to KD 100,000 will be imposed on those who publish any confidential documents or papers even if the information is correct, adding that the same fine will be imposed if the incidents taking place in confidential meetings are published or aired.

Report: Estimated 600,000 people 'tricked and trapped' into forced labor in the Middle East, many sexually exploited

An estimated 600,000 people have been "tricked and trapped" into forced employment in the Middle East, many of them also sexually exploited, the UN's labor agency said on Tuesday.

The International Labor Organization, issuing the findings of a two-year study based on 650 interviews, called for an overhaul of employment practices in the region, notably an end to the "kafala" system of sponsorships.

Kafala, mostly prevalent in Arab states east of Egypt, which are home to more than 12 million foreign workers, requires all such laborers to have in-country sponsors, usually their employers, who are responsible for their visa and legal status.

"Labor migration in this part of the world is unique in terms of its sheer scale and its exponential growth in recent years," said Beate Andrees, head of an ILO program to combat forced labor.

"The challenge is how to put in place safeguards in both origin and destination countries to prevent the exploitation and abuse of these workers," she said at the opening of a two-day conference on the issue in Amman, Jordan.

The 150-page report entitled "Tricked and Trapped: Human Trafficking in the Middle East" was based on research carried out in Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

"Although data is scarce, the ILO estimates that there are 600,000 forced labor victims in the Middle East," it said.

The study singled out the kafala system, saying it was "inherently problematic" because it created an unequal power dynamic between employers and workers.

"Reforming the kafala system would significantly improve labor migration governance in this regard," it said.

The study addressed the issue of animal herders, who are recruited from many Asian countries, including Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

"Several migrants interviewed by the research team had originally been recruited as domestic workers but later were moved on to work as animal herders, taking care of sheep, camels and other livestock out in the desert," it said.

"The vulnerability to debt was highlighted by the results of a survey of Asian workers in Qatar: Half of those interviewed had paid recruiting agencies a fee before leaving home; the average fee was 2,000 Qatari rials [$550], and some had paid much more, putting themselves deep in debt."

The report said the research team found evidence that showed "the particular vulnerability of Asian and African women migrant workers to deceived and coerced into sexual exploitation."

Some women who have migrated to work as domestic workers, nurses, teachers or waitresses, "are abducted upon arrival by their freelance agents and obliged to provide commercial sexual services to clients out of private or isolated apartments or villas."

The study criticized as insufficient laws that "reinforce underlying vulnerabilities of migrant workers" and restrict their ability to terminate employment contracts and to change employers.

A lack of inspections kept domestic workers isolated and heightened their "vulnerability to exploitation," said the study, warning against "the real risks of detention and deportation for workers who are coerced into sex work".

In male-dominated economic sectors such as construction, manufacturing, seafaring and agriculture, "workers are routinely deceived with respect to living and working conditions, the type of work to be performed, or even the existence of a job at all," it said...

Indonesia: Hundreds of Christians, Ahmadis and Shi'ites peacefully take to the streets for religious freedom

Seals on Protestant Churches, threats to Catholics during Holy Week, the closure of mosques and institutions belonging to the Ahmadi sect are but a few of the big and small examples of marginalisation minorities endure every day. In order to raise awareness among the public and foreign media on the frequent violations of the rights of religious minorities, hundreds of Christians, Ahmadis and Shia Muslims marched yesterday through the streets of Jakarta. They called on the much criticised government to take swift and effective action to ensure full religious freedom and equal rights for all of Indonesia's citizens as guaranteed by the constitution and the country's founding principles of Pancasila. The archipelago is the world's most populous (and predominantly Sunni) Muslim nation.

The 300 protesters who met yesterday in the streets of the capital shouted slogans and prayed together, each according to his or her faith. After that, they sang the national anthem and marched towards the People's Representative Council (House of Representative) building.

In the past, members of the Yasmin Church (YC) and the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HBKP) had chosen for their protest another symbolically charged site, the official residence of the President,.

Rev Simanjutak, leader of the HKBP community, welcomed the interfaith march. It sends a clear message to the authorities, which are not paying attention to the issue. In his criticism, the Protestant clergyman does not spare President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who has done nothing "to prevent attacks by extremist groups."

An activist institution, the Setara Institute, has provided evidence of the seriousness of the situation, documenting at least 264 cases of attacks and episodes of direct or indirect violence against religious minorities.

Although it formally guarantees the constitutional principle of religious freedom, Indonesia is increasingly the scene of attacks and violence against minorities.

In Aceh province, the only one in the country ruled by Sharia or Islamic law, and in many other places, a more radical and extreme visions of the Muslim religion is taking root in people's lives.

In addition, some rules, such as the infamous Izin Mendirikan Bangunan or building permit, are used to prevent the building of non-Muslim places of worship or to have them closed down and sealed.

Syria: Western backed rebels slaughter large groups of defenseless civilians, including women and children

The terrorists killed tens of civilians and injured many others in Deir Ezzor in Eastern Syria and al-Reqqa in the Northern parts of the Muslim country on Monday.

The armed rebels who were members of the al-Nusra terrorist group hanged more than 35 civilians and injured dozens more in the al-Masrab village in Reef (outskirts of) Deir Ezzor yesterday. The terrorists torched the homes of the victims after killing them.

In another shocking crime, the armed rebels calling themselves 'Al-Reqqa Islamic Liberation Front' massacred tens of residents of al-Jebeli village in al-Reqqa province.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011 with organized attacks by well-armed gangs against the Syrian police, border guards, statesmen, army and the civilians being reported across the country.

Thousands of people have been killed since terrorist and armed groups turned protest rallies into armed clashes.

The US daily, Washington Post, reported in May, 2012 that the Syrian rebels and terrorist groups battling Assad's government have received significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, a crime paid for by the Persian Gulf Arab states and coordinated by the United States.
. . .
Opposition activists who several months ago said the rebels were running out of ammunition said in May that the flow of weapons - most bought on the black market in neighboring countries or from elements of the Syrian military in the past - has significantly increased after a decision by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Persian Gulf states to provide millions of dollars in funding each month.

Egypt: Satirist faces new probe for ‘insulting Pakistan’ and 'spreading atheism'

Egyptian prosecutors are probing new complaints against popular satirist Bassem Youssef, this time for “insulting Pakistan” and “spreading atheism,” judicial sources told AFP on Tuesday.

The wildly popular Youssef – whose weekly political satire programme al Bernameg (The Show) has spared few public figures of merciless critique – is currently on bail pending investigation into charges of insulting President Mohamed Morsi and Islam.

The new lawsuits accuse Youssef of “insulting the state of Pakistan and causing tensions in its relations with Egypt”. He is also accused of insulting religion and “spreading atheism.”

In an episode after Morsi visited Pakistan in March, Youssef made fun of a hat worn by the president when he received an honorary doctorate from a university in Islamabad.

One lawsuit claimed that Youssef was attempting to “spread atheism” after he allegedly made fun of the prayer ritual which constitutes “questioning one of the five pillars of Islam.”

Youssef confirmed he was being investigated again on his Twitter account

Iraq: Over 450 people, including 229 civilians, killed and more than 1,100 injured in Muslim terror attacks during March

Over 450 people, including 229 civilians, were killed and more than 1,100 injured in the terror attacks and violence in Iraq during March, according to the UN, Xinhua reported.

The statistics have been revealed by Eduardo del Buey, deputy UN spokesperson, during a news briefing Monday, citing a source with the UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).

The source told 227 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed and 300 more were injured in such attacks.

"The Mission remains concerned at the rise in violence in Iraq and the increasing toll on Iraqi civilians and its detrimental impact on civilian infrastructure," del Buey said. "Iraqis continue to suffer from attacks perpetrated by a number of terrorist groups, among them Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq."

Nigeria: Boko Haram open fire on church during Sunday service in Maiduguri

Unknown gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram sect launched a daring attack on a local Church of the Brethren, popularly known as Ekilisiyar Yan’uwa Nigeria, EYN during a sunday service in Maiduguri, the Bornu state capital.

This will be the first time an attack would be launched on a church in the Maiduguri metropolis in broad daylight during Sunday service since the Boko Haram insurgence in the area reached its crescendo.

According to worshippers, about five gunmen riding in a tricycle came to the church area located at Bulunkutu ward in the metropolis at about 11a.m and began shooting sporadically into the church targeting the worshippers as the sermon was being delivered.

The worshippers were taken aback that the gunmen could dare the soldiers in front of the church to launch such an attack.

Spokesman of the Joint Task Force,JTF, Lt Col Sagir Musa who confirmed the incident said the soldiers at the church post immediately repelled the attack.

“They came firing into the church area but our men at the post rose to the occasion and fired back at them. We successfully repelled the attack and the

gunmen fled immediately,” Lt Col Musa said...

Pakistan: Taliban vow to wage jihad to implement Islamic law in the country, democracy a system of 'kafirs'

With a little more than a month to go for Pakistan's general election, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mehsud has described democracy as a system of "kafirs" (non-believers) and vowed to wage jihad to implement Islamic law in the country.
. . .
The Taliban chief claimed that "kafirs" want to divide Muslims in the name of democracy.

The Taliban want an Islamic nation and "Allah's system" in Pakistan, he said.

Shariah will be implemented through jihad and a time would come when there would be a caliphate, Mehsud claimed.

He further claimed that the Pakistan government and the US were hatching conspiracies to make Muslims fight among themselves.

Indonesia: 30 Ahmadiyahs locked inside Mosque since officers sealed the building last Thursday

Thirty members of Bekasi’s beleaguered Ahmadiyah Muslim sect have been locked inside the shuttered Al-Misbah mosque since Bekasi Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) officers sealed the building last Thursday.

“These thirty people were inside the mosque when the government put a fence around the mosque,” Firdaus Mubarik, spokesman of Ahmadiyah Indonesian Congregation (JAI), said on Monday. “When the officers shut down the mosque they were not asked to leave.”

The community members remained in the mosque on April 4 as Satpol PP officers installed heavy iron gates and a fence around the building. When they tried to leave, they found all exits blocked, Firdaus said. They plan to remain in the building until the Bekasi government reopens the mosque.

Police in Pondok Gede, Bekasi, have reportedly harassed Ahmadiyah members who attempted to deliver food to the mosque, Firdaus said.

“He [Pondok Gede Police chief Comr. Dedy Tabrani] threatened those who tried to feed them, saying they would be arrested,” Firdaus said. “Luckily there was still food inside. We gave them food on Friday, at midnight, to avoid the cops. On Saturday, the same threats were heard again.”
. . .
The city’s small Ahmadiyah community have held regular prayers at the Pondok Gede mosque since 1998. They continued to operate without incident despite Islamic officials assertion that the Ahmadiyah are a “deviant” branch of Islam. But pressure began to build once the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) announced plans for a Pondok Gede branch.

Religious intolerance is on the rise in Indonesia, with several high-profile incidents occurring in the heavily populated province of West Java. A recent report by Human Rights Watch accused the Indonesian government of failing to protect the rights of minorities.

Australia: Muslim charged with terror offences, discussed poisoning water supplies and making bombs to take out non-Muslims

Authorities allegedly recorded several conversations between Adnan Karabegovic and friends talking about the "need for action" and discussing terrorist tactics in defending Islam and the duties of Jihad, even if it meant going to jail.

In one recording he allegedly told his brother Nihad: "There is no choice. You are either preparing for war, or at war."

He was also allegedly recorded talking about poisoning water supplies, remote control detonation, preparing for war and attempts to buy a gun.

A committal hearing at Melbourne Magistrates' Court today heard several months of surveillance led to an anti-terrorism raid on Mr Karabegovic's Officer home in Melbourne's south-east last year.

Federal Police allegedly uncovered a USB stick and two computers with numerous editions of al-Qaida magazine, Inspire, detailing how to make bombs and weapons of mass destruction.

The "resource manual for those who loath tyrants," claimed to contain bomb making techniques, security measures, guerilla tactics, weapons training and "all other Jihad related activities," the court heard.

Mr Karabegovic, was charged with 12 counts of collecting and possessing documents and to assist in an act of terrorism.

It was alleged the Inspire magazines collected by Mr Karabegovic spoke in detail about "open source" Jihad, how to handle assault weapons and the "qualities of an Urban Assassin".

They also allegedly described how to specifically launch an attack on Australia and detailed how to make a bomb that would start a bushfire.
. . .
Mr Gurvich said Mr Karabegovic had also told his brother he was "disgusted" that a Melbourne Islamic school had been flying the Australian flag saying instead "they should be burning (it)" because Australians had been sent "to kill our brothers and sisters".

It was alleged Mr Karabegovic had hung banners from an overpass and a fence, including one that read: "Get your troops out of Muslim lands you dirty convict pigs".
A Melbourne man has been committed to stand trial on terrorism offences after being found in possession of Al Qaeda magazines.

Adnan Karabegovic, 24, has pleaded not guilty to seven charges of collecting and possessing editions of the online magazine Inspire - a publication produced for Al Qaeda.

The court heard Karabegovic was found in possession of a USB stick containing four editions of the magazine which contained articles on "open source jihad".

Two more editions were found on his computer.

Open source jihad is described as a shift away from Al Qaeda's traditional attacks to home-grown terrorist acts.

The articles included instructions on how to make bombs using everyday household items, making petrol bombs to spark bushfires, becoming an urban assassin, poisoning water supplies and the killing of women and children...

Bangladesh: Muslim group gives three weeks for their 13 demands to be met, PM rules out blasphemy law

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

As part of their push for a change in the law, the Hefajat-e-Islam group on Monday forced the closure of schools and businesses and barricaded inter-city motorways and railways across the country in a general strike.

Police said at least 30 people were injured in clashes between pro-government activists and Islamists, already infuriated by the recent convictions of leading opposition figures for war crimes.

But Sheikh Hasina, who has been leading a secular government in the Muslim-majority country since 2009, said existing laws were adequate to prosecute anyone accused of insulting a religion.

“Actually, we don’t have any plan to (bring in a new law). We don’t need it,” Hasina told the BBC in an interview broadcast Monday.

“They should know that existing laws are enough,” she added, before stressing that “this country is a secular democracy”.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Islamists rallied in the capital Dhaka to demand a blasphemy law, with provisions for the death penalty for those who defame Islam.

There has been vociferous debate between staunch atheists and fundamentalists in Bangladesh’s social media for years, but it took a deadly turn in February when an anti-Islam blogger was murdered.

Four online writers were arrested last week on charges of hurting religious sentiment through their Internet writings against Islam.

Under existing cyber laws, anyone convicted of defaming a religion on the Internet can be jailed for up to 10 years.

Hefajat-e-Islam, which describes itself as a non-political organisation, has given the government until the end of the month to meet a series of demands or face a blockade of the capital.

The group also wants Islamic education to be made mandatory in primary and secondary schools, members of the Ahmadi sect to be declared non-Muslims and the restoration of pledges to Allah in the constitution, which Hasina’s government has deleted.

Hasina said her government would “go through all the demands” to see “if there is any reasonable one” which it could act on.

Her party, however, accused Hefajat, which draws its support from the country’s tens of thousands of Islamic seminaries, of being a pawn of the opposition.

Wielding sticks, thousands of Hefajat activists clashed with ruling Awami League activists in the port city of Chittagong and northern city of Mymensingh as they barricaded roads and inter-city highways.

At least 30 people including five policemen were injured in the clashes, local police chiefs told AFP, adding they fired tear gas and blank shots to disperse the protesters.

About 2,000 Islamists also barricaded a railway in the eastern Brahmanbaria district, halting trains between the capital Dhaka and Chittagong for about four hours, local police chief M. Moniruzzaman told AFP...

Syria: Western backed rebels recruit children for military missions, sexual abuse and human shields

Chairman of Syria's Committee for Family Affairs Insaf Hamd told al-Ahd news website that like human-trafficking, recruiting children is a crime both in Syria and in the world and is against all the relevant international laws and agreements.

"Recruiting children has been alarmingly growing since the start of the crisis in Syria," he said, pointing to videos and photos posted on the internet or social websites such as You Tube about child soldiers in Syrian opposition groups.

Hamd said that these children are employed not just for carrying guns, but for doing other military missions in military posts, checkpoints and for guarding missions.

"This is a dangerous phenomenon which covers a range of crimes whose extent is way beyond carrying arms as it, in fact, includes crimes from carrying guns to sexual abuse of children by armed men," the official warned.

Earlier reports had already unveiled that the notorious terrorist group, Al-Nusra Front, is using children as a human shield in clashes with the Syrian Army.

According to a March report by Cham Press news website, informed sources in Tunisian Salafist Takfiri groups acknowledged that a 10-year old boy, named Farouq al-Tunisi, was killed in clashes between the Syrian army and al-Nusra front as the terrorist group was using the kid to shield its members.

The sources said that Farouq along with his father were recruited by Al-Nusra Front and they were active in Syria since September.

The report said that a growing number of terrorists are now in Syria with their sons and the Nusra front is using these boys as human shields...

UK: Shari'ah court tells undercover BBC reporter posing as 'abused wife' to stay

Dr Suhaib Hasan told the undercover reporter that she should only contact police “as a last resort”, but she would be forced to leave her marital home if she did so.

The shocking exchange, filmed by the BBC’s Panorama programme for a special report into Sharia courts, has infuriated equal rights campaigners.

Baroness Cox is trying to take ­forward a private members’ Bill in the House of Lords to make it an offence for Sharia councils to set themselves up as courts.

She said: “It is a system which, in its gender discrimination causing women such suffering, is utterly incompatible with our country’s ­values. It is time to draw a line in the sand and say ‘enough is enough’.”

The programme, to be screened tomorrow night, highlights the problems faced by Muslim women who are pressured to stay in abusive marriages. Posing as a woman seeking a divorce from her violent husband, the reporter consults Dr Hasan of the Leyton Islamic Sharia council in east London.

His first response is to ask if she has done anything to provoke her treatment.

He asks her: “I think that you should be courageous enough to ask this question to him. Just tell me why you are so upset, huh? Is it because of my cooking? Is it because I see my friends, huh? So I can ­correct myself.”

The reporter asks if she should report the violence to the police but is warned: “You involve the police if he hits you but you must understand this will be the final blow.

“You will have to leave the house. Where will you go then? A refuge? A refuge is a very bad option. Women are not happy in such places.”

Dr Hasan goes on to suggest counselling, adding: “Don’t think about the police because if the police is involved then think, your family life is going to break.” Leyton Sharia council handles 50 cases a month, mainly marital disputes brought by Muslim women. For many couples a Sharia divorce is the only option because they have a Sharia marriage not a British civil one.
. . .
There are thought to be at least 85 Sharia councils in Britain.

Australia: Women and non-Muslims 'not welcome' at mosque funeral for former policeman

The family of Erdinc Ozen, a former police officer and member of the navy reserves, are demanding an apology following the incident at Sydney's Auburn Gallipoli Mosque last month.

Mr Ozen, a Turkish-born Australian who served as a policeman until 2011, died from a brain aneurysm last month.

His brother Tunc said a number of senior police and friends from his fishing club at the Seven Hills-Toongabbie RSL left the service after the unexpected directive from acting president Dr Abdurrahman Asaroglu. Others attending included an 87-year-old World War II veteran and former NSW premier Nathan Rees.

"He told everyone it's a Muslim prayer service, all women and non-Muslims were not welcome and they had to leave the mosque area," Tunc Ozen said...

Egypt: Al-Qaeda leader urges Muslims in "Arab Spring" countries to violence for goal of Islamic law

Al-Qaida's leader has urged Muslims in Arab Spring countries to unite to institute an Islamic state, while warning France that its intervention in Mali will be bogged down.

"I warn France that it will meet in Mali, with God's permission, the same fate America met in Iraq and Afghanistan," Ayman Al-Zawahri said in a 103-minute audio message posted on militant websites late Saturday.

France launched a military operation in Mali last January after being asked to intervene by the country's interim president. Since then, French and Malian troops have liberated main towns in the north, but remnants of an al-Qaida cell remain active there in some of the vast, rural areas.

In the recording, al-Zawahri urged Muslims to liberate their lands from oppressive regimes and foreign troops, apply Islamic law, halt the plundering of Muslim wealth, support rebellious Muslims and oppressed people worldwide, and establish the Islamic Caliphate, or religious state.

The audio was produced by al-Qaida's media arm, As-Sahab, and was presented alongside video footage showing Iranian revolutionary guards captured in Syria, and other events in the Middle East.

The al-Qaida leader praised the mujahedeen, or holy warriors, in Syria, urging them to step up their fight against the regime of President Bashar Assad. But he also warned them against letting the country fall under the influence of the United States, the Arab League, the United Nations and Israel should they gain control of it.

"(They) want to steal your sacrifices and your jihad to give them to their supporters in Washington, Moscow and Tel Aviv."
. . .
Al-Zawahri's previous message, in which he urged Muslims to join Somali militants, was in November.

Bangladesh: Half a million Muslims take part in anti-atheist protest, demand hanging of atheist bloggers

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

Thousands of Islamist protesters marched the streets of Bangladesh’s capital, calling for the death penalty for bloggers who insult Islam. The city ground to a halt as demonstrators demanded the government change the law to punish blasphemers.

The activists gathered in their thousands at Dhaka’s commercial hub on Friday night in protest over blasphemous bloggers who offend Islamist sensibilities on social networks. In a demonstration that lasted well into Saturday, they urged the government to introduce a new law with the provision of the death penalty for those who defame Islam.

As the protesters advanced they chanted: "God is great, hang the atheist bloggers!”

"I've come here to fight for Islam. We won't allow any bloggers to blaspheme our religion and our beloved Prophet Mohammed," Shahidul Islam, an imam at a mosque outside Dhaka who walked 20km, told AAP.

Dhaka police put the number of demonstrators at around 100,000, while the event’s organizers said the protests drew more than half a million Muslims. The so-called ‘long march’ brought people from remote villages to participate.

Hefajat-e-Islam, the hardline group who organized the protests, has set out a list of 13 demands for the Bangladeshi government. They stipulate a system by which so-called ‘atheist bloggers’ can be prosecuted and hanged for their defamation of Islam.
. . .
Tensions between the antagonistic groups reached boiling point in February after the murder of a well-known atheist blogger outside his home. Ahmed Hajder was part of a movement of bloggers who called for Islamist leaders who committed crimes in the 1971 war of independence to be tried and executed.

In an effort to allay tensions, the Bangladeshi government has blocked a number of websites and blogs. Additionally, a panel has been formed to monitor and control blasphemy on internet sites and social media.

The current punishment for defaming religion online in Bangladesh carries a jail sentence of up to 10 years in jail.

Nigeria: At least 11 people killed in a gun and machete attack carried out by Muslims in a northeast village

Authorities in northeast Nigeria say at least 11 people were killed in a gun and machete attack carried out by radical Islamic extremists in a northeast Nigeria village.

Adamawa state police spokesman Mohammed Ibrahim said the attacker hit the village of Midlu early Saturday morning, targeting the house of the state's deputy governor during their assault.

Ibrahim said victims had their throats slit. Villagers living there said the attackers called out some of their victims by name, suggesting that the assailants had particular people they wanted dead.

No arrests were immediately made in the attack, which comes as northern Nigeria faces near-daily attacks by Islamic extremists. The main extremist network there, known as Boko Haram, has been launching attacks since 2010, despite an increased deployment of soldiers and police there.

Saudi Arabia: The Grand Mufti (top Islamic official in the country) declares destruction of all churches in region

Earlier this month news reports surfaced out of Saudi Arabia that raised the red flag for Christians, reports MNN.

Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, says, "The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia--the top Islamic official in the country of Saudi Arabia--has declared that it is "necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.'" Nettleton goes on to note that the report hasn't surfaced anywhere except on the Council on Foreign Relations Web site, which was then picked up by The Atlantic.

Ranked second on the Open Doors World Watch List (a compilation of the 50 countries where persecution of Christians is the most severe), the news is not really a surprise. There is no provision for religious freedom in the constitution of this Islamic kingdom.

All citizens must adhere to Islam, and conversion to another religion is punishable by death. Public Christian worship is forbidden; worshipers risk imprisonment, lashing, deportation, and torture. Evangelizing Muslims and distributing non-Islamic materials is illegal. Muslims who convert to Christianity risk honor killings and foreign Christian workers have been exposed to abuse from employers.

Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, created an implication with his assertion. Nettleton explains, "This was in a meeting with Kuwaiti officials who came to Saudi Arabia. They were asking this Islamic official ‘What should we do about the churches?' His statement was, ‘There should be no Christian churches on the Arabian peninsula.'"

According to the report, the delegation wanted to confirm Sharia's position on churches. Essentially, Nettleton says, "If you have churches in Kuwait, which they do, they should be destroyed. The interesting thing about this is that there are no churches in Saudi Arabia. There are no church buildings that are allowed to exist there. So he clearly wasn't talking only for his own country: he was trying to export this ideology to the surrounding countries."

This proclamation could affect churches in Kuwait, Oman, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Nettleton observes that "in most of these countries, we're not talking about a lot of churches; we're talking about a few that are allowed to exist primarily to serve foreigners that are living in that country."

However, the UN Human Rights Council has yet to take a stand on such blatant violations of freedom of religion.
. . .
For the most part, says Nettleton, the Mufti's statement will be buried in the mainstream media. However, he's encouraging believers to ask God to continue to intervene. There are Christ followers in Saudi Arabia who "take great risk to follow Jesus Christ. They take great risk to even talk about their faith with another person.

Pakistan: Christian leader Saleem Khokhar survives third attack on his life

Two unidentified men on a red motorcycle tried to stop his white Corolla No. GS-9063 near Thatta, and opened fire when he didn’t stop. The police have registered an FIR No. 65/2013 at Thatta police station.

Khokar, who is a Christian and a former member of the Sindh Assembly, was very vocal in condemning the injustices done to religious minorities. He highlighted several cases of forced conversions and marriages on a number of occasions in the assembly.

Khokar, who has been attacked twice before in Essa Nagri, Karachi, feels that he is being targeted by religious extremists. “I am being threatened and have gone into hiding to protect myself,” he told The Express Tribune from an undisclosed location. “Law enforcement agencies know that I am being followed. My whole family is under threat but the government doesn’t care.”

Khokhar added that not one political leader or government official had contacted him since the attempted attack on him on Wednesday. “Where should I hide and to whom should I complain,” he asked. “Is it crime for the minorities to raise their voice?”

Khokhar used to be provided security but it was withdrawn after the government was dissolved. “It is the government’s duty to provide me security and find the people behind the incident.”
. . .
Bhatti, who was also a Christian, was elected the federal minister for minorities in 2008. He was killed allegedly by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in 2011 for his stance on the blasphemy law.

Afghanistan: Bomb attached to donkey explodes killing a policeman and wounding three civilians

An official says a bomb attached to a donkey has exploded, killing a policeman and wounded three civilians.

Local government spokesman Sarhadi Zwak says the donkey blew up in front a police security post in the Alingar district of Laghman province.

He says Taliban militants carried out Friday's attack.

Insurgents are finding new ways to thwart stepped up security measures in their bid to undermine confidence in the Afghan government, as U.S. and other foreign combat forces prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014.

Australia: Airline Qantas bans pork on in-flight menu to respect Muslims

No food containing pork or pork products will be served on those flights - which now has a stopover in Dubai - because it is strictly forbidden in Islam and is considered "unholy".

All meals offered on the route in first, business and economy classes will also be prepared without alcohol in keeping with the Islamic religion. A note on the Qantas menus on flights in and out of Dubai states that the meals do not contain pork products or alcohol. The airline has also introduced a mezze plate offering traditional Middle Eastern fare in its upper classes and has Arabic translations after in-flight announcements.

A Qantas spokesman said the decision to remove pork, ham and other related food items had had minimal impact on its menu and it was still offering the same meal choices.

"Qantas in-flight catering often reflects the cultural and regional influences of the international destinations we fly to," he said.

"On flights to and from Hong Kong and China, our menus include regionally inspired dishes such as stir fries and to Singapore we have noodle options."

Qantas also offers meals without pork and alcohol on flights to the Indonesian capital Jakarta, which also has a large Muslim population.

Several other airlines which fly from Australia to the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia do not serve pork either.

Virgin Australia does not serve pork on flights to and from Abu Dhabi and all meals that are prepared are halal accredited, with meat prepared in a way prescribed by Islamic law.

Qantas passengers heading to any European city now fly via Dubai instead of Singapore, as they did under the airline's previous longstanding partnership with British Airways. The Qantas pork ban comes as other airlines - in the wake of the Qantas-Emirates merger - jostle for market share by aggressively discounting fares from Australia to Europe...

Pakistan: Christians injured and a church, dozens of shops and vehicles damaged after mosque incites attacks from loudspeakers

Incited by calls from mosque loudspeakers after a dispute between Muslim and Christian youths, a Muslim mob attacked a Christian neighborhood in Gujranwala today, injuring at least five Christians and damaging a church and dozens of shops and vehicles.

Only a few hours after Pakistan's Supreme Court rebuked Punjab Police for only observing arsonists and other assailants in Lahore's Joseph Colony rioting last month, police allowed Muslims to attack Christians of Francis Colony in Gujranwala, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Lahore, sources said. Two of the injured Christians were seriously wounded.

A resident of Francis Colony, where 2,000 Christian families have settled in the overwhelmingly Muslim-majority country, said police bias was evident in today's attack.

"The police was doing what it does best – nothing!" said Asif Barkat, who received minor injuries as he and other Christians tried to defend themselves. "Their bias towards Christians is quite evident, because when the Muslims were raiding our church and property, they just watched, but when we confronted them, they started hitting us with batons and used live ammunition to deter us."

Area Christians said three Christian youths – identified only as Mehran, Timothius and Waqas – were heading to their homes on a motorized rickshaw along with four Muslim passengers on Tuesday night (April 2) when one of the Christian boys asked the driver to turn on radio.

"The boys told us that a Muslim passenger named Muhammad Mushtaq stopped them from playing music, saying it was forbidden in Islam, and that he should not show disrespect to the Muslim faith," Pervaiz Masih, told Morning Star News by phone. "The boys entered into an argument with the Muslims, which later turned into a minor scuffle."Passersby intervened, and the Christian boys went to their homes, he said, but the Muslim youths called their friends and soon a mob gathered in Francis Colony. They began shouting derogatory slogans against Christianity, trying to provoke residents, who remained in their homes unaware of the prior altercation.

"When the Muslim youths left the area, a group of Christian elders went to the police post located in our colony and sought security from them," Masih said. "The police told us that they would not let any person harm us and the matter would be resolved amicably. On this assurance we returned to our homes."

This morning, a group of Muslim leaders including Muhammad Nazar, Muhammad Mushtaq and Muhammad Chand called on the Christians to form a committee to resolve the issue peacefully, he said.

"We formed an eight-member committee to negotiate with the Muslims, but when the delegation reached the designated meeting point, they found no one there," he said. "They were then asked to come for the dialogue at the police post." Masih said that as the delegation was preparing to go to the police post, a Muslim mob of 500 to 700 people mainly from nearby Noorkey village attacked their colony with firearms and clubs.

"They took us by surprise, because we trusted the police's assurance that the Muslims would not resort to further violence," Masih said. "The mobs ransacked a church, dozens of shops and damaged several vehicles."

Police and rescue units said at least five Christians were injured during the attack, two of them seriously. Though police reportedly engaged the armed assailants in gunfire, apparently resulting in more injuries, area Christians such as Babar Masih told Morning Star News they saw only police inaction.

"They were just looking on as the Muslim boys broke our shops and vehicles," he said. "No one tried to stop the mobs from damaging our property, so some of us took out our weapons and started firing into the air to scare them away. Our boys also came on the roads and confronted the Muslims with batons and sticks. We were not going to let them repeat the Joseph Colony tragedy in our neighborhood."

Aneeqa Maria Akhtar, a Christian lawyer who is head of The Voice Society advocacy group, told Morning Star News that police could have prevented the violence. She said that before the clashes, Muslims made provocative speeches used mosque loudspeakers to call Muslims to "teach the Christians a lesson," yet police did nothing.

"They let it happen," she said. "Timely action by the police would have contained the situation." Akhtar added that she had filed an application in the police chief's office against responsible officials. Police Accountable

Police officials said members of a banned Sunni militant group, Sipah-e-Sahaba, were involved in the attack, but that they had increased security in the area in an effort to prevent religious conflict.

Gujranwala Division Police Chief Amin Vaince said that he had ordered the police post to be shut down and disciplinary action taken against staff members for showing extreme negligence in their duties.

"The police's job is to serve the people," he said. "It's quite clear that the police did not do their job, resulting in damage to property and injuries to some people. However, we will get to the bottom of things, and those responsible for disturbing interfaith harmony would be dealt with an iron hand."

Pakistan is nearly 96 percent Muslim, according to Operation World, and Christians make up 2.45 percent of the population. Earlier in the day, before the Supreme Court, a Punjab government lawyer conceded that Lahore police in Joseph Colony on March 9 had purposefully avoided the Muslim mobs incited by a blasphemy accusation.

"The religiously charged mob was avoided by police, for if any of them got killed, the issue might have been blown out of proportion and spread all across the country," argued Additional Advocate General Punjab Hanif Khatana, defending the inaction of police. Justice Azmat Saeed of the three-member bench challenged the counsel's statement. "Is the Punjab government not ready to take risk for protection of Christians?" he said. "It's disturbing and upsetting … you cannot punish a community and desecrate their churches."

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, heading the bench, also inquired pointedly.

"Do you mean whenever there is charged mob, the police should shy away from confronting them?" he said. "Should we leave the SC [Supreme Court] building if any mob attacks and take shelter in Judges Colony?"

The chief justice reminded the court that all are equal before the Pakistani Constitution and the law, and that police are trained for controlling highly charged mobs.

Aftab Sultan, the newly appointed inspector general Punjab Police, said actions had begun against the area's senior police officials for failing to confront the mob that burned down more than 180 Christian-owned houses and shops and at least two church buildings.

He also acknowledged that it was the duty of the state to provide protection and security to all citizens of the country without any distinction.

In view of the assurances given by the inspector general, the high court dropped the case but directed relevant trial courts to continue proceedings without prejudice from the Supreme Court's decision.

Egypt: 150 reported kidnappings in the last two years, all of them targeting Christians, including children

Ezzat Kromer's resistance to his kidnappers did not last long. One of the masked gunmen fired a round between his feet as he sat behind the wheel of his car and said with chilling calm, "The next one will go into your heart."

The Christian gynecologist says he was bundled into his abductors' vehicle, forced to lie under their feet in the back seat for a 45-minute ride, then dumped in a small cold room while his kidnappers contacted his family over a ransom.

For the next 27 hours, he endured beatings, insults and threats to his life, while blindfolded, a bandage sealing his mouth and cotton balls in his ears.

Kromer's case is part of a dramatic rise of kidnappings targeting Christians, including children, in Egypt's southern province of Minya, home to the country's largest concentration of Christians but also a heartland for Islamist hard-liners.

The kidnappings are mostly blamed on criminal gangs, which operate more freely amid Egypt's collapse in security since the 2011 fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Crime has risen in general across Egypt, hitting Muslims as well. But the wave of kidnappings in Minya has specifically targeted Christians, and victims, church leaders and rights activists ultimately blame the atmosphere created by the rising power of hard-line Islamists.

They contend criminals are influenced by the rhetoric of radical clerics depicting Egypt's Christian minority as second-class citizens and see Christians as fair game, with authorities less likely to investigate crimes against the community.

Over the past two years, there have been more than 150 reported kidnappings in the province — all of them targeting Christians, according to a top official at the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police.

Of those, 37 have been in the last several months alone, the official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
. . .
Responding to the allegations that authorities do not aggressively investigate crimes against Christians, Minya's security chief Ahmed Suleiman said it is because victims' families negotiate with kidnappers rather than report the abductions.

"We cannot be held responsible for kidnappings that are not reported to us," he said, blaming hardened criminals for the kidnappings.

Christians say they don't bother to report because they have no confidence in the police...
Kidnappers Target Christians in Egyptian Province
The Associated Press, April 4, 2013

Pakistan: 2,050 people killed and another 3,822 injured in over 1,500 terrorist attacks last year

A total of 2,050 people were killed and another 3,822 injured in over 1,500 terrorist attacks across Pakistan last year, according to a report issued by a leading rights body on Thursday.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan's annual State of Human Rights report said over 100 Shia Hazaras were killed in Balochistan province alone during 2012.

At least 2,284 people died in ethnic, sectarian and political violence in Pakistan's largest city of Karachi during the period.

A total of 87 people were listed as "missing" or detained without charge by security agencies. Of them, 72 people were subsequently traced or released by authorities, the report said.

"At least 72 bodies were found in Balochistan of individuals who had gone missing in previous months," HRCP co-chairperson Kamran Arif told a meeting at which the report was released.

The report also noted that there had been a decrease in US drone attacks on Pakistan's restive tribal areas, with the number of missile strikes falling from 74 in 2011 to 48 in 2012.

"Estimates of casualties varied between 240 and 400," the report said.

Referring to major terrorist attacks, the report said hundreds of militants blew up the gates of a central prison in Bannu in March last year and succeeded in releasing 384 prisoners.

The report said a total of 583 people were killed and 853 injured in 213 incidents of sectarian attacks by terrorists or sectarian clashes.

In Karachi, at least six churches were attacked, two of them within a period of 10 days in October, it said.

The report also highlighted the condition of jails across the country.

There were a total of 75,444 prisoners in jails across the country, as against the authorised capacity of only about 44,600.

There were 1,289 juvenile prisoners in jails and an overwhelming majority of them was under trial.

Fifty-nine prisoners died in custody while another 81 were injured. Ten incidents of alleged torture of prisoners were reported.

Bangladesh: Christian children rescued from Muslim Training Centers disappear, traffickers continue to operate with impunity

International Christian Concern has learned that 11 of the 16 Christian children who were rescued from Muslim traffickers in Dhaka, Bangladesh on January 2 have again gone missing. Sources in the Christian community, as well as reports in local newspapers, report that they believe the children were re-trafficked and taken to madrassas, Islamic training centers, where they will likely be forced to convert to Islam and study the Quran.

Eleven Christian children, originally from the Rangamati district of Chittagong Hill Tracts, disappeared for the second time earlier this year after being given back to the custody of their parents. “We were not aware that our child would be taken to a madrassa,” one parent told ICC. The children, along with five others, had been rescued by police from a madrassa in the Abuzor Giffari Mosque Complex in Dhaka. The children had been missing for months. They were returned to their parents soon after their rescue, but traffickers continually threatened the parents until the recent disappearance of the children. Local authorities say the children were likely trafficked again to madrassas and are concerned that they will be forcibly converted to Islam.

“The [leader] of the traffickers gives a large sum of money to the traffickers to take the kids to the madrassa,” said an ICC source. “Because of this, they threatened the parents and took their children, again, to a madrassa. It is all because of large sums of money, and because there are no punishments for the trafficker.”

At least 141 children have been rescued from madrassas since July 2012, according to ICC sources. Parents have not been able to level charges against known traffickers, amongst whom are Norbert Tripura and Binoy Tripura (no relation), due to lack of funding and fear of reprisals. No arrests have been made to date. “The Tripura Christians are very poor and cannot afford to bring a case against the traffickers. They are also scared to do this. If the parents do not bring a case, the police are powerless,” said an ICC source. “The traffickers do not get punishment from the courts. Because he has no fear of punishment, he will continue to traffic the children.”

Corey Bailey, ICC’s Regional Manager for Asia said, “The children in these instances are targeted for trafficking based on their Christian faith and economic status. Once trafficked, the children are forced to convert to Islam and the training for ‘suicide squads’ begins. The buying and selling of human beings for any purpose is abhorrent and illegal under international law. The traffickers should be brought to justice and no longer allowed to operate with impunity. Education and opportunity for the Christian minority in Bangladesh should be a higher priority for the government to ensure that situations like this will no longer occur.”

Pakistan: Muslims angry over Easter Sunday prayers attack a dozen Christian shops and churches, 18 people injured

At least 18 people were injured Wednesday, April 3, when angry Muslims attacked a dozen Christian shops and churches in Pakistan's city of Gujranwala, Christians told BosNewsLife.

Among the seriously injured people was one man who was earlier reported to have died, but he survived, investigators said.

The violence in the city's Francis Colony area followed Muslim anger about Easter Sunday prayers in local churches and a dispute among Muslim and Christian youngsters over loud music, BosNewsLife established.

Adding to tensions was a Muslim cleric who rebuked Christian boys for "disrespecting Islam" by playing music on their mobile phones near a mosque, residents said.

Tuesday's fighting between Muslim and Christian boys soon spiraled out of control with local imams reportedly using mosque loudspeakers to encourage violence against "Christian infidels."


On Wednesday, April 3, the area turned into a war zone, with police apparently firing with live ammunition at rioters and heavily armed Muslim mobs shooting back at security forces and Christians.

"At least one Christian man nearly died after he was seriously wounded by shooting and fighting, but he survived following hospital treatment," added Sardar Mushtaq Gill, director of Christian advocacy group Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD).

More details about the injured man were not immediately available, but LEAD said it was investigating. "It is not yet clear whether he was shot by a Muslim mob or police," Gill said.

He said at least 18 people were injured including several with bullet wounds, who were rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Christian-owned shops and churches were targeted and more than a dozen cars, buses and other vehicles were set on fire, Christians and investigators said.
. . .

However the Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC) party accused police of involvement in violence against Christians.

"The police also fired live rounds and tear gas on peaceful Christians who gathered in Francis Colony to demand justice and action against Muslim attackers," said the PCC-backed Pakistan Christian Post publication.

Francis Colony is said to be one of the largest Christian settlements in Gujranwala -- some 80 kilometers outside the provincial capital Lahore -- with a population of about 2,000 families.

The violence comes nearly a month after as many as 180 Christian-owned homes, shops and two churches were burned down by an angry Muslim mob in the city of Lahore.

Those riots were triggered by reports that a young man, Savan Masih, committed blasphemy against Islam, charges he strongly denied.


The latest violence has underscored concerns among rights group over a growing number of attacks related to blasphemy allegations against minority Christians.

However there was some good news for at least one believer: A Pakistani appeals court on Wednesday, April 3, overturned the conviction and death sentence of Younis Masih [see below], a Christian man who spent nearly eight years behind bars on charges of 'blasphemy'.

Masih, 34, was sentenced in May 2007 in the city of Lahore for making "derogatory remarks" about Islam's Prophet Mohammad.

Pakistan: Court overturns death sentence of Christian man who spent eight years in prison on 'blasphemy' charges

A Pakistani appeals court on Wednesday, April 3, overturned the conviction and death sentence of Younis Masih, a Christian man who spent nearly eight years behind bars on charges of 'blasphemy', a lawyer involved in the case told BosNewsLife.

Masih, 34, was sentenced in May 2007 in the city of Lahore for making "derogatory remarks" about Islam's Prophet Mohammad.

"However the Lahore High Court declared him innocent of the charges and ordered his release," said attorney Sardar Mushtaq Gill of advocacy group Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD).

Gill, who witnessed the ruling, told BosNewsLife that Masih will also not have to pay a fine of some 100,000 Pakistani rupees ($1,000), a huge amount in impoverished Pakistan. He said the young man was expected to embrace his wife and four children later Wednesday, April 3.

His anticipated release ends an ordeal that began in 2005 when Lahore police first detained him after Muslims complained that he asked them to turn down the volume of Islamic Mystical Sufi Music.


Some 400 Muslims attacked Christian homes, forcing over 100 families to flee the area, according to LEAD investigators

Police also "tortured" Masih and a cousin who was initially detained with him, according to Christians involved in the case. When Masih was eventually sentenced to death in 2007, LEAD and other groups supported his appeal.

Gill told BosNewsLife that Wednesday's decision by the Lahore High Court to free the young man "could positively impact" other blasphemy cases including against his client Martha Bibi, a married mother with seven children, who faces the death penalty for blasphemy.

"Martha Bibi was released on bail in 2007 but she will face another hearing this month and a final decision of the court," he explained.

Another jailed Christian woman, Asia Bibi , also hopes the Lahore High Court will rule against plans to execute her for blasphemy against Islam. Earlier, a Pakistani court dropped all charges against Rimsha Masih, a young mentally challenged Christian girl, whose detention triggered a global outcry.


Besides following the cases of these women, LEAD also supports 24-year-old Khuram Shahzad, who faces life imprisonment under section 295-B of the blasphemy legislation for "defiling the Koran", deemed a holy book by Muslims.

The cases have underscored concerns over Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which carry a potential death sentence or long prison term for anyone who insults Islam, with suspects often languishing for years in jail before their appeals are heard.

Critics say the legislation is misused to persecute Christians and others or to settle personal disputes on often trumped-up charges.

Last month, a Muslim mob attacked a Christian neighborhood, torching up to 180 homes and other Christian properties and injuring dozens in Lahore's Joseph Colony after hearing reports that a Christian young man committed blasphemy against Islam.

The detained man, Savan Masih, has denied the charges.

More than a dozen people are known to be on death row over blasphemy allegations and over 50 people have been killed while awaiting trial on similar charges, according to rights activists.

Egypt: Coptic boy kidnapped, abductors open fire on church, later ask for five million Egyptian pounds ransom

Just as Islamic terrorists feed off of Christian minorities by kidnapping and ransoming them in lawless regions—like “liberated” Iraq and on-its-way to being “liberated” Syria—last Sunday, four armed and masked men kidnapped a 12-year-old Coptic Christian boy, Abanoub Ashraf, as he was walking to his church in “Arab-Spring-liberated” Egypt. Right before he reached the St. Paul Church in Shubra al-Khayma district, the men put a knife to his throat, dragged him to their car, opened fire on the church, and then sped away. The kidnappers later called the family asking for five million Egyptian pounds in ransom—almost the equivalent to one million U.S. dollars, likely an impossible amount to raise.

During a live interview with Wael Ibrashi concerning this incident, Coptic Bishop Marcus said that, while the immediate motive behind the kidnapping is money, the other purpose is to frighten Christian families from sending their children to church. Otherwise, why kidnap him from right in front of the church door? (Considering that some Egyptian clerics consider attending church as worse than attending bars and brothels, the kidnappers likely deem this the “altruistic” side of their greed and hate.) The kidnappers also covered their faces only right before they pounced on the boy, displaying their confidence that there would be no repercussions...
Coptic Boy Kidnapped at Knifepoint, Abductors Open Fire on Church
Raymond Ibrahim Islam Translated, April 3, 2013

Indonesia: 50% of Indonesia’s children are victims of sexual abuse

Almost half of Indonesia’s children have fallen prey to instances of sexual harassment, according to a nongovernmental organization advocating children’s issues.

The National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak) claimed on Tuesday that about 50 percent of the country’s 21 million children had been victims of such abuse, though the figure excluded children who did not report their cases to the authorities.

From January to April, Komnas Anak received 127 reports of child abuse in the Greater Jakarta area alone.

Arist Merdeka Sirait, the chairman of the commission, noted that East Jakarta had become the most unsafe area for children in the capital, having recorded the most cases of sexual harassment.

Komnas Anak said that 51 percent, or 67 reports, came from East Jakarta. Last year, the NGO received 2,637 reports on child abuse in Greater Jakarta, with 190 cases originating from East Jakarta.

“Jakarta had the highest instances [of sexual abuse cases] in 2012, with 663. East Jakarta is the most prone to sexual abuse against minors,” Arist said at his office in Jakarta.

He attributed the high rate of violence against children in East Jakarta to the area’s population density. He also said that about 80 percent of East Jakarta residents were in the medium to low income bracket...

Pakistan: 40 percent of Pakistani youth in favor of having Muslim Shari'ah rule, according to a survey

More than half of young Pakistanis believe democracy has not been good for their country and nearly 40 percent are in favor of having Islamic sharia rule, according to a survey published Wednesday.

Pakistan goes to the polls in a historic general election on May 11, but the report by the British Council found deep pessimism about the political system among voters aged 18 to 29.

An overwhelming 96 percent of those surveyed in the “Next Generation Goes to the Ballot Box” report said the country was heading in the wrong direction and almost a third said they would prefer military rule to democracy.

Just 29 percent chose democracy as the best system for Pakistan, a constitutional Islamic republic, with 38 percent favoring sharia, saying it was the best for giving rights and freedom and promoting tolerance.

But the report noted that none of those surveyed had any direct experience of living under a non-democratic system of Islamic government and some had “elevated views” of what such a setup could achieve.

“As a Muslim, I believe in Khalifa rule. Democracy is like giving your country and faith to America,” one respondent, Muhammad Usama, was quoted as saying.

A study commissioned for the report estimated there are more than 25 million registered voters aged 18 to 29 in Pakistan, or slightly more than 30 percent of the electorate.

The coalition government led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) ended on March 16, paving the way for the country’s first democratic transition of power.

Analysts have hailed the event as an important milestone in Pakistan’s short but turbulent history, which has seen three periods of military rule. However, the PPP has been dogged throughout by allegations of corruption and incompetence.

Pakistan suffers crippling power shortages and gun and bomb attacks by Taliban and other militants are a near-daily scourge.
. . .
Despite Islamist and sectarian violence that has claimed thousands of lives in Pakistan since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, the survey found inflation and unemployment were young people’s biggest concerns.

Only 10 percent of those surveyed rated terrorism as the most important issue facing the country.

The report was based on four commissioned studies, an online consultation and 5,271 in person interviews with people aged 18 to 29 around Pakistan, with a stated margin of error of less than 1.5 percent.

Burma: 13 children die in fire at Muslim school, imam being investigated for negligence

A Burmese imam is being investigated for possible negligence after 13 children died in a fire at a Muslim school in Rangoon, police said.

Authorities were also quizzing a Muslim teacher in the case, reports said.

Police earlier blamed an electrical fault for the blaze. Most of the children escaped unharmed.

Riot police were deployed to the area as people gathered, concerned that the fire was linked to recent communal violence in other parts of the country.

At least 40 people have been killed since 20 March in the attacks which have mainly targeted minority Muslims.

The school's imam and a Muslim teacher were being investigated but no arrests had been made so far, Rangoon police chief Win Naing told the AP news agency.

"As the two people in charge, they are responsible for this and we have to take action against them," he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile hundreds of people attended the funeral of some of the victims on Tuesday afternoon.

Locked doors Earlier, police spokesman Thet Lwin said the two-storey building - part of a mosque - in eastern Rangoon sheltered about 75 orphans.

Most of the children escaped by running out of a door after police knocked it open, he said. The school was badly burned.

The Myanmar (Burma) Police Force said on its official Facebook page that the victims had died from burns or smoke inhalation.

One report said all of the victims were boys. The dormitory had locked its doors because of the recent tensions, so the children struggled to escape, reports said.

Syria: Another new fatwa permits western backed rebels to rape non-Sunni women

Yet another Islamic cleric recently made it permissible for the Islamic fighters waging a jihad in Syria—politely known as “the opposition”—to rape the nation’s women.

Salafi Sheikh Yasir al-‘Ajlawni, a Jordanian of origin who earlier lived in Damascus, Syria for 17 years, posted a YouTube video last week where he said he was preparing to issue a “legitimate fatwa” making it legal (in the eyes of Islam) for those Muslims fighting to topple secular president Bashar Assad and install Sharia law to “capture and have sex with” all non-Sunni women, specifically naming Assad’s own sect, the Alawites, as well as the Druze and several others, in short, all non-Sunnis and non-Muslims.

The sheikh used Islam’s legitimate Arabic term for these hapless, non-Muslim women, melk al-yamin, a phrase that appears in Islam’s sacred book, the Koran, and which is simply a reference to non-Muslim sex-slaves. For example, Koran 4:3 commands Muslim men to “Marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four… or what your right hands possess.” Islam’s ulema, or “scholars,” are unanimously agreed that “what your right hands possess” is, according to Islamic law, simply a sex-slave. Linguistic evidence further suggests that she is seen more as an animal or a possession than a human—hence this inhuman fatwa.

Jordanian Sheih Yasir al-‘Ajlawni is certainly not the first cleric to legitimize the rape of infidel women in recent times. Calls to capture and rape non-Muslim women are appearing with increasing frequency from all corners of the Islamic world.

A few months earlier, Saudi preacher Muhammad al-Arifi also issued a fatwa allowing jihadi fighters to engage in “intercourse marriage” with captive Syrian women that lasts for a few hours “in order to give each fighter a turn”—also known as gang-rape.

Then there is Egyptian Sheikh Ishaq Huwaini, who once lectured on how infidel captives, or to use another term from the Koran, ghanima, the “spoils of war,” are to be distributed among the jihadis and taken to “the slave market, where slave-girls and concubines are sold.” He, too, referred to such women as “what your right hands possess,” saying: “You go to the market and buy her, and she becomes like your legal mate—though without a contract, a guardian, or any of that stuff—and this is agreed upon by the ulema…. In other words, when I want a sex-slave, I go to the market and pick whichever female I desire and buy her.”

Indeed, even some Muslim women advocate the enslavement and rape of fellow (non-Muslim) women. Kuwaiti political activist, Salwa al-Mutairi, for instance, is working to see the institution of sex-slavery return. In a video she posted online, she explained how she once asked Islam’s greatest authorities living in the city of Mecca, the city of Islam, about the legality of sex-slavery and how they all confirmed it to be perfectly legitimate. According to Mutairi:

A Muslim state must [first] attack a Christian state—sorry, I mean any non-Muslim state—and they [the women, the future sex-slaves] must be captives of the raid. Is this forbidden? Not at all; according to Islam, sex slaves are not at all forbidden. Quite the contrary, the rules regulating sex-slaves differ from those for free women [i.e., Muslim women]: the latter’s body must be covered entirely, except for her face and hands, whereas the sex-slave is kept naked from the bellybutton on up—she is different from the free woman; the free woman has to be married properly to her husband, but the sex-slave—he just buys her and that’s that.

The Kuwaiti activist went on to offer concrete suggestions: “For example, in the Chechnya war, surely there are female Russian captives. So go and buy those and sell them here in Kuwait; better that than have our men engage in forbidden sexual relations. I don’t see any problem in this, no problem at all.”...
New Fatwa Permits Rape of Non-Sunni Women in Syria
Raymond Ibrahim Islam Translated, April 2, 2013

Pakistan: Seven killed and several injured as mob of militants attack major power station and kidnap ten

At least seven people were killed and several others were injured when a mob of suspected militants attacked a major power station in northwest Pakistan, police said Tuesday.

The attackers, who numbered around 50, hurled mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at the biggest power station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, disrupting the power supply to half of Peshawar city.

"They attacked the power station at around 2:30 a.m. (21:30 GMT). They killed two officials on the spot and abducted 10 others," Javed Khan, a senior police official in the area, told the AFP.

Local official Mohammad Ishaq said that a policeman and a security guard were killed and five others died after being kidnapped in Monday's incident after being shot by the assailants, Reuters reported.

The bullet-riddled bodies of the captives were recovered later, police officials said, who added that four Water and Power Department employees and a policeman were still missing.

"They entered the grid station and started setting ablaze each and everything," Ishaq said. "They kidnapped nine people and killed five of them later and threw their bodies in the fields."

The entire power station was destroyed in the deadly attack, which occurred in the run-up to the May 11 general elections. Following the attack, more than 100,000 people faced a power blackout in Peshawar city, for five hours.

. . .
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet. However, Pakistan’s Taliban had vowed to increase attacks ahead of the polls. The attack underscores the rising Taliban insurgency in Pakistan’s northwest region bordering Afghanistan...

Bangladesh: Three atheist bloggers arrested on charges of defaming Islam

For earlier news on the crackdown of "blasphemous" atheist bloggers in Bangladesh, click here.

Three atheist bloggers in Bangladesh were today arrested here on charges of defaming Islam, as the government set up the country's first cyber crime tribunal to prevent exploitation of religion on the Internet.

The crackdown as well as the announcement came two days after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pledged stern action against people found guilty of defaming Islam using the Internet.

"We are amending both the Right to Information Act and the Penal Code toughening punitive measures for hurting the people's religious sentiments," Law Minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed told a press conference also joined by Home Minister Mahiuddin Khan Alamgir and two state ministers.

Ahmed said that the government constituted the tribunal appointing a judge in the capital while a process was underway to set up identical special courts at divisional cities including Chittagong.

He said a government committee comprising two Islamic scholars was constituted to identify websites which were either exploiting or defaming the religion. The committee had recommended the arrests of the three, who have been sent to seven days remand.

The trio, who were paraded in hand-cuffs at today's press conference, could face 10 years in jail if convicted under the country's cyber laws, which outlaw "defaming" a religion, deputy commissioner of Dhaka police Molla Nazrul Islam said.
. . .
Actions were also ordered against newspapers which carried out reports to exploit religion issuing a directive upon Dhaka's deputy commissioner, state minister for law said.

Last week, Hasina had said that the government has decided to act against those responsible for hurting people's religious sentiments through internet posts and blogs.

"As a Muslim, I have the responsibility to take action," she told a meeting of ruling Awami League's central working committee.

Bangladesh authorities earlier banned the YouTube to prevent the viewing of a defamatory video which sparked worldwide protests in late 2012.

In February this year, they closed 12 blogs and Facebook pages for carrying out "malicious publicity" by suspected Islamists amid an intensified nationwide campaign against their leaders for 1971 war crimes.

But the mostly fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami and several other Islamist outfits have been alleging that young "anti-Islamic bloggers" were defaming Islam.

The young bloggers initiated a massive street campaign enforcing a round-the-clock vigil at Dhaka's Shahbagh Sqaure for over a month since February this year demanding toughest punishment for perpetrators of 1971 "crimes against humanity" siding with Pakistani troops in the name of protecting Islam.
In April this year, police arrested the bloggers, Asif Mohiuddin, Moshiur Rahman Biplob, Subrata Adhikari Shuvo and Russel Parvez, on charge of hurting religious sentiments.

After framing charges, Judge Md Zahirul Haque of the Metropolitan Session Judge's Court on Sunday fixed Nov. 6 to start the trial in two cases against the four bloggers, who are now on bail and already pleaded not guilty and demanded justice.

If convicted, they will face 14 years' rigorous imprisonment and a fine of 10 million taka (about $125,000) in maximum.
. . .
Since the death of blogger Ahmed Rajib, 35, who along with many others spearheaded Bangladesh's Shahbag Square movement, a series of blog posts described as anti-Islamic have circulated, although their authorship has so far remained unclear.

Blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was hacked to death near his home in Dhaka on February 15.
Four atheist bloggers in Bangladesh are facing up to 14 years in prison for defaming Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, including one who was stabbed viciously by fundamentalist attackers earlier this year.

"They have been indicted with defaming Islam, Prophet Mohammed and other religions through their Internet writings. They spread malice against all religions," senior public prosecutor Shah Alam Talukdar told AFP.

The four accused are 24-year old Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, 36-year old Russel Parvez, 42-year old Mashiur Rahman Biplob, and 29-year old Asif Mohiuddin. The bloggers were arrested earlier this year after nationwide protests by Muslims targeting atheists who were critical of Islam in online posts.

Mohiuddin was stabbed repeatedly in January by suspected Islamist fundamentalists, who attacked him after leaving work one night in Dhaka. He survived after spending time in critical condition in a hospital, and in August shared with The Friendly Atheist blog that he had 53 stitches all over his body bearing witness to the attack.

"The doctors gave up all hopes for my life, however they could finally bring me back to life after a four hour long operation. I'm still not fully able to move my neck," Mohiuddin said. "Doctors told me that it was a clear attempt to murder and I was lucky to have survived despite the attack being severe and gruesome."

Clashes between Islamic protesters and police left at least 38 people dead in May. Atheists have been targeted for their postings online, and right groups have called on the government to drop charges against them.

The government has said that its actions are aimed at ensuring communal harmony in a country where nearly 89.5 percent of the population is Muslim, and another 9.6 percent are Hindu – with all other beliefs making up barely 0.9 percent.

The Associated Press noted that the trial is set for Nov. 6. The accused are currently out on bail after spending nearly three months in jail, but could be sentenced to as much as 14 years in prison if found guilty.

Bangladesh's blasphemy laws prohibit criticizing religion, and target those with "deliberate" or "malicious" intention of hurting religious sentiments.

"The relative strictness of these laws implies the existence of several limitations on the discussion of some religious questions in the public sphere, given that there is a criminal sentence for the rather ambiguous crime of 'hurting religious sentiments,'" notes the UCLA Asia Institute.

Mohiuddin told The Friendly Atheist blog that despite the attack and the looming trial, he is not giving up his fight for freedom of speech.

"But I'll fight till the end for my freedom of speech, my freedom of believing and not believing and criticizing religious dogmas and fundamentalism. Even if I die, some other will take my place and he will keep fighting," Mohiuddin said.

Religious minorities in Bangladesh such as Christians also experience persecution. Open Doors USA says that conversion to Christianity is still "the most shameful act for a Muslim in this country."

"New Christians are often alienated from family, expelled from their communities or pressured to revert to Islam. Often, they and their families are beaten and authorities deny them due process of law. Growing local congregations attract opposition from underground terrorist groups and Muslim neighbors," the watchdog group added in its report on the South Asian country.

Saudi Arabia: Man sentenced to paralysis in retribution for allegedly paralysing a friend 10 years ago

Amnesty International appealed Tuesday to Saudi Arabia not to carry out a reported sentence of paralysis for a man in retribution for allegedly paralysing another man 10 years ago.

Ali al-Khawahir, 24, was reportedly sentenced to Qisas, or retribution, in the Eastern Province town of Al-Ahsa and could be paralysed from waist down if he fails to pay compensation of one million riyals ($270,000), the rights watchdog said, citing Saudi media reports.

It said Khawahir had stabbed his friend in the back in 2003, rendering him paralysed from the waist down. He was 14 at the time.

"Paralysing someone as punishment for a crime would be torture," said Ann Harrison, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Amnesty.
. . .
Amnesty said a similar sentence of paralysis was imposed in 2010 but that it was unknown if it had been carried out.

The ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom imposes several forms of corporal punishment attributed to Islamic sharia law, ranging from flogging, to amputation and beheading.
Amnesty slams Saudi 'paralysis' sentence
The Daily Star, April 2, 2013

Pakistan: Muslims threaten to kill a young woman, her husband, child and in-laws for converting to Christianity

Muslims in Pakistan's Punjab province have threatened to kill a young woman as well as her husband, child and in-laws because she abandoned Islam and converted to Christianity, BosNewsLife learned Monday, April 1.

Maria Manzoor, 26, and her 27-year-old husband Emmanuel Ghulam Masih said they are hiding with their "beautiful one-year-old daughter" Yarusha Emmanuel after receiving death threats.

"We have shifted from one place to another even in the last week," the couple explained in remarks obtained by BosNewsLife. "We have changed the location of residence, but now we are tired. We fear for our lives."

Friends and pastors have been reluctant to provide them a shelter, amid security concerns.

Maria Manzoor said the threats come from her Muslim relatives and Islamist extremists. And, "I am told that my family is making threats to my husband's father to bring me back and hand me over to my family", she added.


The woman, who claims to have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior four years ago, said she is prepared to die for Him. "I have a strong faith in Jesus and have no fear of being killed for my faith. I would be proud to die for Him." However, "I am concerned about our little child," she added.

Additionally, Muslims have threatened to kill her husband and other relatives, confirmed their attorney Sardar Mushtaq Gill. "They have also threatened to kidnap her husband's sisters and kill the couple and other relatives," added Gill, director of the Pakistan-based advocacy group Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD).

The "hate campaign" emerged this year after Maria's Muslim family found out about her Christian conversion and that she visits a local church while being pregnant of a second child, said her father-in-law, Ghulam Masih.

The 58-year-old Masih told BosNewsLife in obtained remarks that he "received numerous threats of dire consequences" if he does not handover Maria to the Muslims.

Authorities in the city of Lahore, where the couple lived, haven't made live easier.


Maria Manzoor said an official responsible for national identity cards and birth certificates recently "used many abusing words" when asked to change her religion from Muslim to Christian in documents.

"She said this would never happen and asked many questions about my Christian marriage certificate. The officer and her colleagues also threatened my husband of dire consequences because of our marriage and my conversion from Islam to Christianity," she recalled.

"My husband and me ran away from NADRA Registration Center [in Peco Road Township of Lahore] for the safety of our lives."

LEAD's Gill said his group now tries to provide accommodation for the couple and other relatives threatened by Islamists.

He said the incidents confirm a wider trend in Pakistan. "Muslim society condemns their marriage and conversion which is, according to [the strict interpretation] of Islam punishable by death," Gill noted...

PA: Newly approved education law banning same sex schooling in the Gaza Strip has entered into force

A law banning same sex schooling in the Gaza Strip has entered into force, education minister for Hamas, which rules the Palestinian territory, said on Monday.

The law, which was issued on February 10, was approved by the Islamist movement's legislative council and went into effect on Sunday, Osama Mazini told a news conference.

Article 46 of the law, seen by AFP, will "ban the mixing of students from the two sexes in educational establishments after the age of nine, and work to 'feminize' girls' schools."

Hamas has in the past moved to enforce conservative religious laws, including telling schoolgirls in Gaza to wear traditional full-length robes and headscarves in the besieged enclave.

The newly approved education law also forbids the "receipt of gifts or aid aimed at normalizing [relations] with the Zionist occupation [Israel]."

Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, after it won a landslide victory in a Palestinian general election a year before against rival West-Bank based Fatah.

Afghanistan: Teenager kills US soldier by stabbing him in the neck while he played with local children

An Afghan teenager killed an American soldier in eastern Afghanistan by stabbing him in the neck while he played with a group of local children, officials said Monday.

The killing comes as the monthly U.S. death toll rose sharply in March to 14 with the start of the spring fighting season when the Taliban and other insurgents take advantage of improved weather to step up attacks.

Sgt. Michael Cable, 26, was guarding Afghan and U.S. officials meeting in a province near the border with Pakistan when the stabbing occurred last Wednesday, two senior U.S. officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The attack occurred after the soldiers had secured the area for the meeting, but one of the U.S. officials said the youth was not believed to have been a member of the Afghan security forces or in uniform so it was not being classified as an insider attack.

The official said the attacker was thought to be about 16 years old, but the age couldn’t be verified.
. . .
The soldier was playing with a group of children outside when the attacker came from behind and stabbed him in the neck with a large knife, Khan said, adding the young man had escaped to nearby Pakistan.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the young man was acting independently when he killed the soldier but had joined the Islamic militant movement since fleeing the scene.

The Pentagon said in a statement last week that Cable, of Philpot, Ky., died from injuries sustained when his unit was attacked by enemy forces.

At least 14 U.S. soldiers died in March, compared with four in the previous two months, according to an Associated Press tally...

US: Son fatally shoots father during Easter church service, yells killing was the ‘will of Allah’

Witnesses say the 25-year-old man accused of walking into an Ohio church and fatally shooting his father after an Easter service Sunday was yelling about God and Allah after the killing.

Police say Reshad Riddle walked into the Hiawatha Church of God in Christ in Ashtabula and killed his father, 52-year-old Richard Riddle, with a single shot from a handgun Sunday afternoon.

Associate Pastor Sean Adams told The (Ashtabula) Star Beacon newspaper that worshippers started screaming, ducking down and calling 911 on cellphones after the shooting.

“It was terrifying,” Adams told the newspaper. “The children were screaming and people were dialing 911. We were afraid to breathe.”

Adams said Reshad Riddle then continued into the church, still holding the gun, and yelled that the killing was “the will of Allah. This is the will of God.”

Reshad Riddle was quickly subdued by officers, who arrived just moments after the shooting. They say he has been mostly cooperative.

The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland reported that another church pastor said congregants were leaving when they heard a gunshot.
It was revealed just yesterday during court testimony that the shooter in the Easter church murder in Ashtabula, Ohio was a Muslim and carried a Koran during the crime.

Media reports following the Easter Sunday shooting at a Christian church in Ashtabula, Ohio failed to disclose that one important piece of information. But the killer, Reshad Riddle, 25, left behind a Muslim Koran at the scene.

Riddle got in an argument with his father, Richard Riddle, 53, outside the Hiawatha Church of God in Christ in Ashtabula soon after Easter services ended, around 1:15 p.m. Sunday. He then shot his father in the head with a .38 special, killing him.

Riddle then according to witnesses, approached the pulpit, waving a handgun and yelling about God and Allah. The Ashtabula Star Beacon newspaper reported that Reshad Riddle walked through the church, still holding the gun, and yelled that the killing was "the will of Allah. This is the will of God."

At the time Ashtabula Police Chief Robert Stell said Riddle offered no motive for the shooting. "Witnesses at the scene said the shooter entered church and made some references to Allah, but we are not sure if that was a motive or if there was a family problem."

But during court testimony Wednesday, Patrolman Jay Janek said when he arrived on the scene, Reshad Riddle was inside the church, standing at the podium.

“He had the gun in the air,” Janek said. “He had several knives on him ... we later discovered the Koran on the podium.”
. . .
Detective William Felt told the court that said Riddle spoke about religious passages in the Koran. “He found solace in his religion after he shot his father,” Felt said.

It would appear that the media suppressed all references to Islam as being a possible motive for the shooting on Easter Sunday in a Christian church and of Rashad Riddle being a Muslim
Reshad J. Riddle, 28, of 4007 West Ave., was indicted on one count of aggravated murder, one count of murder, both with gun specifications, and one count of having weapons under a disability. Riddle is charged with shooting his father, Richard outside of Hiawatha Church of God in Christ on Easter Sunday in Ashtabula.
Suspect in dad’s murder indicted
Star Beacon, April 25, 2013

Bangladesh: PM pledges to punish online insults against Islam as Muslims threaten to wage intensified street campaign against 'atheist bloggers'

For earlier news and updates on the same subject, click here.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today pledged stern action against people found guilty of defaming Islam using the internet as right-wing Islamic parties threatened to wage an intensified street campaign against "atheist bloggers".

"You (Islamic parties) do not need to go for any movement. As a Muslim, I have the responsibility to take action," Hasina said at a party meeting of her ruling Awami League, this evening.

She added, "We have already decided what action to be taken against those responsible for (internet posts and blogs) hurting people's religious sentiments."

The premier's comments came days after newly-emerged Hefazat-e-Islam announced a long march towards the capital Dhaka on April 6 to protest against "atheist internet bloggers".

Bangladesh authorities had earlier banned the YouTube website to prevent the viewing of a video allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammad which sparked worldwide protests late last year.

In February, they shut down 12 blogs and Facebook pages for carrying out "malicious publicity" by suspected Islamistsas several radical leaders faced trial for crimes in 1971 liberation war.

The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and several other Islamist outfits have been alleging that youngsters and "anti-Islamic bloggers" were defaming Islam while the bloggers' movement has demanded tough punishment for the accused in 1971 war crimes.

The youngsters had earlier rejected the Islamists' allegation, calling it an effort to thwart the war crimes trial.

Nigeria: Bloody Easter averted in Kano, military raid Boko Haram hideout and kill 14

Soldiers raided a suspected hideout for Islamist extremist group Boko Haram in northern Nigeria’s largest city of Kano on Sunday, sparking a clash that left 15 people dead, the military said.

The military claimed that those killed included 14 Islamists and one soldier, while alleging the extremists were planning an Easter day attack in the city.

Residents reported hearing gunfire and explosions early on Sunday as soldiers battled the Islamists.

“In the raid, 14 terrorists were killed and their commander was arrested,” Army Brigadier-General Ilyasu Abba told reporters.

“We lost one soldier in the encounter and one other was badly injured.”
. . .
The military claimed to have recovered weapons, including a car loaded with explosives which Abba said was “primed for attack against Easter here in Kano.”

The hideout, which comprised two attached flats, was destroyed by a bulldozer on the orders of Abba, as with previous hideouts.

Nigeria has in the past seen major attacks on Christian holidays blamed on Boko Haram.

A bombing in the northern city of Kaduna on Easter last year killed 41 people.

Violence linked to Boko Haram’s insurgency has left some 3,000 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces.

The group’s deadliest attack yet occurred in Kano in January 2012, when coordinated bombings and shootings killed at least 185 people.

Afghanistan: Trading of women and children rampant in east Nangarhar, often sold into Pakistan for less than a mule

The sale and exchange of women as goods is rampant in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province with as many as two women traded per day, according to the findings of a sociology researcher.

In a report obtained by TOLOnews, researcher Assadullah Ahmadi stated that he found some women had been traded up to five times in three Nangarhar districts – Rodat, Mohmand, and Shinwar – as part of the socially-accepted use of wives and daughters as possessions.

"It is [happening] in Mohmand and Rodad, and all of the Shinwar, and the spot of sale is the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan," Ahmadi said.

In his report, Ahmadi says that the eastern Afghan women were often sold across the border into Pakistan and usually for less than the cost of a mule.

"There are even women that have been sold three to five times and in some cases sold along with their daughters. When we went to them, we came to know their price is less than a mule," he said.

Afghanistan's Ministry of Hajj and Islamic Affairs on Saturday told TOLOnews that it is aware of women being sold in Afghanistan and especially in eastern Nangarhar province, stating that it is a cultural practice that even the clerics are not capable of preventing.

"There is no doubt that women are being sold, and for three reasons: past practices, poverty, and illiteracy. The women whose husbands doubt them, the women that are not liked by their husbands, and the women whose husbands are poor are sold. However they are not sold as servants but they do the Nikah," said Dai-ul-Haq Abed, deputy minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs.

The Nikah is the temporary or fixed-term marriage allowed in Islam under certain conditions.
. . .
According to the council, aside from being traded for money, girls as young as five-years-old are given to victims of crimes committed by the girl's family member. After receiving her, the victim will often sell the girl and keep the money.

"In districts of Nangarhar, there are married women between ages of 16 to 80 who are sold when either her husband needs money or wants to marry another girl," said Angiza Shinwari, a member of the provincial council.

Indonesia: Christians hold Easter service in front of presidential palace, peacefully protest church closures

More than 200 Indonesian Christians on Sunday held an Easter service in front of the presidential palace, demanding the government stop church closures in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

Amid hooting cars and other traffic noise, men, women and toddlers sang hymns and said prayers in a two-hour service that also served as a protest against the lack of protection for religious minorities.

The worshipers came from three areas on the outskirts of Jakarta where local government officials shut churches, citing community opposition or the lack of proper building permits.

Rights activists have said local governments are using the permit issue as an excuse to kowtow to religious hard-liners, with churches and Islamic minorities bearing the brunt of attacks.

They say mosque building permits are rarely challenged.

“We are here to show the president and the world that law enforcement, constitutional supremacy and protection of minority groups are not as sweet as the president had claimed,” said Bona Sigalingging, a spokesman for GKI Yasmin church.

“We urge President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to stop staying silent and uncaring of the rampant violations of freedom of religion in Indonesia,” the congregation said in a statement.

Ninety percent of Indonesia’s 240 million people identify themselves as Muslim but the constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

Among those worshiping near the palace Sunday were members of the HKBP Taman Sari church, whose building was pulled down by the Bekasi district administration on March 21.

“The Easter celebration this year, including Good Friday, touched our hearts more than before because now our church is in ruins,” Panahatan Siregar of the Taman Sari church told AFP.

Rights group Setara Institute of Peace and Democracy says cases of intolerance are on the rise, with 543 reported in 2011 compared to 491 in 2009. More than 300 incidents were recorded in the first half of 2012.

India: Hindus protest after woman abducted, forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim man

MEMBERS of Hindu community staged a protest in Sindh after a woman converted to Islam and married a Muslim man, according to a media report Saturday.

Protests within the minority community led to postponement of polls for Hindu Panchayat in Jacobabad Friday.

Reports said Ganga married Asif Ali at Amrot Sharif Dargah after converting to Islam, Dawn reported. Ganga changed her name to Aasia.

The woman's parents lodged an FIR that alleged Ganga was kidnapped.

Syria: Western backed rebels importing Muslim girls, including children, to satisfy their sexual needs

What are the Muslim jihadis in Syria doing when they are not fighting against Bashar Assad's army?

According to reports in a number of Arab media outlets, the jihadis are importing Muslim girls to satisfy their sexual needs.

The sexual exploitation of girls was revealed after several Tunisian families reported that their teenage daughters had gone missing in recent months.

It later transpired that the girls had been dispatched to serve to Syria on "jihad marriages." In other words, the girls had been sent to Syria to satisfy the sexual needs of the anti-Assad jihadis.

The jihadis, some of whom are affiliated with Al-Qaeda, are probably not getting enough weapons from Arabs and Westerners to fight against Assad's forces. But what is evident is that they are in the meantime getting enough supplies of young girls to satisfy their sexual needs.

The phenomenon apparently began after a Saudi religious scholar, Mohamed al-Arifi, reportedly issued a fatwa [religious decree] allowing Muslim girls to go on "jihad marriages" in Syria. Al-Arifi has since denied issuing the fatwa.

The fatwa purportedly allows the jihadis, who abandoned their wives to fight against Assad's regime, to marry girls for a few hours to satisfy their sexual needs.

But even if there never were such a fatwa, as the Saudi scholar says, what is evident is that Tunisian girls are being sexually exploited by the jihadis in Syria.

Tunisian Minister for Religious Affairs, Noor Eddin al-Khadimi, said that Tunisians should not abide by the fatwa.

Salma al-Raqiq, a Tunisian opposition figure, said that the "jihad marriages" were a disgrace for the Tunisians.

She also called on the authorities to start dealing with the increasing phenomenon of Tunisian jihadis heading to Syria to join radical Islamist groups.

Al-Raqiq told United Press International that the phenomenon was a dangerous one. She said that young girls, including minors, have been sent to Syria to "marry" jihadis for a few hours.

The reports about "jihad marriages" follow charges that Muslim men have been exploiting the plight of Syrian refugees by "marrying" their young daughters.

Reports in the Jordanian media revealed that Muslim men from various countries have been converging on Jordan to pick young Syrian girls residing in a temporary refugee camp near the border with Syria. Nearly one million Syrians have fled to Jordan since the beginning of the crisis in their country two years ago.

A report on Channel 4 revealed this week that Syrian girls in Jordan were being kidnapped, sexually harassed and raped.

What is disturbing is that many Arab and Islamic human rights organizations have remained silent about the crimes committed against Muslim women throughout the Arab and Muslim world. By contrast, these organizations are often quick to denounce Westerners for "insulting" Islam by publishing photos depicting the Prophet Mohamed.

If anyone is really insulting Islam, it those the Muslim fundamentalists and jihadis who show no respect for Muslim girls and treat them as sex slaves.
Jihadis' Exploitation of Muslim Girls
Gatestone Institute, March 31, 2013

Pakistan: Office of NGO (Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment) bombed by militants

A bomb was planted by unidentified militants near the gate of the NGO’s office in Hayatabad Phase-I. The device, weighing six kilogrammes, rendered heavy losses to the building, furniture and a vehicle used by the organisation, but no loss of life was reported. “The blast also damaged two other houses in the area,” said a police official.

Sawera’s technical advisor Lal Jan Afridi said the NGO, which stands for Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment in Rural Areas, is presently working on voters’ education and mobilisation in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). He added they are also providing livelihood to displaced persons not residing in refugee camps.

Jan said despite the murder of their colleague in Jamrud, Khyber Agency on July 4, 2012, they have continued with their operations fearlessly.

Sawera’s Executive Director Farida Afridi was shot dead while she was on her way to office from her house in Hayatabad, Peshawar. “She was a great loss for us, but that didn’t deter us from working for the welfare of poor people,” Jan told The Express Tribune.

He added they had not received any prior warnings of an attack on them, saying it was “sudden and tragic.”

Jan claimed they have now been compelled to suspend operations as their office has been completely destroyed. He said they will talk to donors to provide funds to compensate for the losses they have sustained. “We will do everything we can to ensure the organisation keeps running.”

He said the lives of the NGO’s employees were at stake and appealed to the government to provide them security. “We have 15 staff members, most of whom are females. They are gripped with fear after this blast.”
. . .
“The lukewarm response of Pakistani forces and their constant failure to catch the culprits are providing a safe haven for terrorists in tribal areas. These attacks are now happening on a daily basis. The caretaker government should chalk out a proper strategy to rid Pakistani soil of these militants,” he added....
Bomb explosion: Office of NGO targeted in Hayatabad
The Express Tribune, March 31, 2013

Syria: Western backed rebels behead and parade body of pro-Assad cleric

Syrian rebel forces killed a pro-regime Sunni cleric in the city of Aleppo, with some reports suggesting he was beheaded, and then dragged his body through the streets, a watchdog group said on Saturday.

Sheikh Hassan Seifeddin, imam of a mosque in the northern Aleppo neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsud, "was killed overnight Friday by rebel fighters in the east of the area and his body was dragged through the streets," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Syrian state news agency SANA reported that Seifeddin was "assassinated by terrorists who mutilated his body afterwards," while official television station Al-Ikhbariya said he had been "slaughtered" and beheaded.

"The ulema [clerics] of Aleppo denounce this despicable crime committed by the enemies of humanity who assassinated Sheikh Hassan Seifeddin and laid his head on the minaret of Al-Hassan mosque in Sheikh Maqsud," the station reported.
. . .
A March 22 suicide bomb attack on a central Damascus mosque claimed by jihadists killed 42 people, including the country's most prominent pro-regime Sunni cleric.

The Observatory said 31 people had been killed in Sheikh Maqsud in 24 hours, including 10 civilians, 14 pro-regime gunman and seven rebels.

At least 157 people were killed through Syria on Friday, according to the watchdog group which gathers its information from a network of activists and medics on the ground.

Iraq: String of bombings targeting Shi'ite mosques kills 23 and wounds dozens

A string of bombings targeting Shi'ite mosques in Iraq have killed at least 23 people and wounded dozens, officials say.

Friday's attacks were the latest in spectacular assaults staged by insurgents seeking to undermine the Shi'ite-led government's efforts to achieve security across the country.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the bombings bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda's Iraq branch. The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, frequently uses car bombs, suicide bombers and coordinated blasts in an effort to sow fear among Shi'ites and erode their trust in the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Four car bombs hit Shi'ite mosques in the Iraqi capital as worshippers were leaving after Friday prayers, killing 19 people and wounding 72.

First, a parked car exploded in Baghdad's western Jihad neighbourhood, killing seven worshippers and wounding 25, a police officer said. Another police officer said four people were killed and nearly 20 were wounded in a bombing in an eastern Qahira neighbourhood. Three people died and 15 were wounded in the eastern Zafaraniyah district while yet another car bomb killed five people and wounded 14 in the northeastern Binook neighbourhood.

Three health officials confirmed the causality figures.

And in the northern city of Kirkuk, 290km north of Baghdad, a suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into a group of worshippers as they were leaving a mosque after Friday prayers, killing three people and wounding up to 70, according to police colonel Najat Hassan. A senior provisional health official, Sidiq Omar Rasool, confirmed the casualty figures in Kirkuk.

Violence has ebbed sharply since the peak of Sunni-Shi'ite fighting that pushed the country to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007, but Sunni insurgents still occasionally carry out high-profile attacks against Shi'ites, considering them to be heretics...
Yahoo News, March 30, 2013


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