Islam in the News (February 2013)

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'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


Contents

Sudan: Man convicted of armed robbery has hand and foot amputated by court order

Government doctors in Sudan amputated a man's hand and foot to carry out a sentence for robbery, rights groups said on Wednesday, describing the extremely rare punishment as a form of torture.

The amputation of Adam Al Muthna's right hand and left foot took place by court order at the interior ministry's Al Rebat hospital in Khartoum on February 14, the rights groups said, citing "reliable sources."

Muthna, 30, was convicted of armed robbery related to an attack on a truck carrying passengers, said a statement issued by New York-based Human Rights Watch, also on behalf of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, London-based REDRESS and US-based Physicians for Human Rights.

"Cross amputation is a form of state-sponsored torture," said Vincent Iacopino, senior medical adviser at Physicians for Human Rights.

Sentences of amputation have previously been handed down under Islamic sharia law, whose introduction in 1983 sparked a devastating 22-year civil war.

But since 2001 there have been no known cases of such sentences being carried out, the rights groups said.

The Sudanese authorities "routinely" order flogging penalties and last year issued two sentences of death by stoning for adultery, although the capital punishment was later overturned, they added.

"Authorities should immediately stop imposing such cruel and inhuman punishments, and bring laws in line with Sudan's human rights obligations," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Australia: Four men found guilty of giving a convert to Islam 40 lashes: Islamic punishment for drinking alcohol

Four men have been found guilty of giving a Sydney electrician 40 lashes with a cable, which they said was a punishment under Islamic law for drinking alcohol and using drugs.

Zakaryah Raad, Tolga Cifci, Wassim Fayad, and Cengiz Coskun were today convicted of several charges relating to whipping Cristian Martinez, a convert to Islam, in July 2011.

"Until now, assaults occasioned in the course of a religious practice involving the mortification of the flesh have not been before any court in any common law country."

Mr Maloney said that, from the outset, prosecutors were clear the case was not about sharia, or about the Islamic faith.

The court heard Mr Martinez drank alcohol and took drugs on July 15 and 16, 2011, before he called Fayad, who had been his spiritual leader, and said he wanted help to get off drugs and make a fresh start.

Fayad said: "Yeah, it means I'm going to tie you up, brother, that's what I'm going to do.

"I'm going to tie you up, OK, and that's what you need brother, because now you need this level because you're not going anywhere."

Fayad called Raad and told him to go to Mr Martinez's western Sydney townhouse to check on him, where Raad sent Fayad a message saying something like: "Allam, the sharia bring right material. It's important."

Fayad, Cifci and Coskun then went to Mr Martinez's unit late on July 16 and Fayad whipped him while the others held him down on a bed.

"Mr Fayad counted out the lashes and when he came up to number 10 ... he gave Mr Martinez a break," Mr Maloney said.

"Mr Martinez went into the bathroom and vomited.

"Mr Martinez was then forced back onto the bed and given 10 further lashes by Mr Fayad. He was given another break and went to the bathroom again."

After the whipping, Mr Martinez sought advice from from Sheik Omar el Banna, the imam of the Omar Mosque in Auburn.

In a statement to the court, the sheik said the men's actions were not sanctioned by the Islamic community in any way.

"I said [to Mr Martinez] ... 'This is ridiculous. You can't apply this ruling, this is wrong. This isn't what should be happening'," he said.

Mr Martinez said he consented to the 1st, 11th and 21st lash, but Magistrate Maloney found that his consent had been withdrawn.

Raad was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in company, stealing and two counts of intimidation, while the others were convicted of the assault and stealing charges, related to a CCTV hard drive they took from Mr Martinez's home.

The men will be sentenced at a later date.
40 lashes under 'Islamic law': men guilty of assault
The Sydney Morning Herald, February 28, 2013

Pakistan: More than 100 schools destroyed in Mohmand by Taliban

Suspected Taliban militants bombed four boys’ schools in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt on Thursday, officials said, in the latest attack by militants on government educational institutions.

No one was injured in the pre-dawn blasts in Mohmand tribal district, where officials said Taliban attacks have now destroyed more than 100 schools.

“Militants from TTM (Tehrik-i-Taliban Mohmand) blew up the buildings of four schools at around 2:30 am,” an intelligence official in Mohmand told news agency AFP.

Liaqat Ali, a government official, confirmed the incident and told AFP that militants planted locally made explosives to dynamite the school buildings.

“All the four schools were completely destroyed, the number of schools destroyed in Mohmand is now more than 100,” Ali said.

Extremist militants opposed to co-education have destroyed hundreds of schools, mostly for girls, in northwest Pakistan in recent years.

Maldives: 15 year-old rape victim sentenced to 100 lashes and eight months of house arrest

The religious Adhaalath Party (AP) has declared that the 15 year-old rape victim who was recently sentenced to 100 lashes and eight months of house arrest “deserves the punishment”, as this is the penalty for fornication under Islamic Sharia.

The party, members of which largely dominate the Maldives’ Ministry of Islamic Affairs, stated that the sentence of flogging had not been passed against the for being sexually abused by her stepfather, but rather for the consensual sex to which she had confessed to having on another occasion.

“The purpose of penalties like these in Islamic Sharia is to maintain order in society and to save it from sinful acts. It is not at all an act of violence. We must turn a deaf ear to the international organisations which are calling to abolish these penalties, labeling them degrading and inhumane acts or torture,” the statement read.

“No one has the right to criticise any penalties specified in Islam,” the party added.

Quoting verses from the Quran, the statement said that no citizen should be allowed to express ideas and opinions about a verdict made in accordance with the religion in a court of law in a 100 percent Muslim country.

The Adhaalath Party further cautioned that criticising issues like this would “encourage enemies of Islam, create confusion among the general public and open up opportunities for people who aim to stop the practice of similar penalties commanded in Islam.”

“Furthermore, Allah has decreed that expressing disapproval of issues such as this contradicts with faith in Islam,” the statement continued, quoting more verses from the Quran.

“Allah has also commanded that we show no kindness when implementing these penalties.”

The party also stated that it was saddened by the physical and psychological abuse the girl had suffered at the hands of her parents, calling the state authorities to ensure they were given the punishments they were due as detailed in Islamic Sharia.

“If such sinful activities are to become this common, the society will break down and we may become deserving of divine wrath,” the Adhaalath Party stated.

Flogging amounts to degrading punishment or torture: UN

United Nations has expressed concern over the case of the 15 year-old being sentenced to flogging.

“The child is allegedly a victim of long-standing sexual abuse. Under international legal human rights obligations of Maldives, corporal punishment, including flogging, amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or even to torture,” read a statement issued by the UN in the Maldives.

“ The approach to sexual abuse which has been adopted in numerous international human rights frameworks is that governments should implement prevention, prosecution of perpetrators, and protection measures to ensure that sexual abuse does not occur. Where it has occurred, governments should put in place measures for rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of victims.”

...

Bangladesh: Violence erupts after Jamaat-e-Islami leader sentenced to death for crimes committed during the 1971 war

A tribunal in Bangladesh has sentenced Islamist leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedi to death for crimes committed during the country's 1971 war of independence.

The Jamaat-e-Islami chief was found guilty of charges including murder, torture and rape. He is the most senior figure convicted so far.

The verdict was cheered by his opponents but set off protests in which at least 30 people were killed.

Critics said the charges were politically motivated.

Lawyers for Sayeedi say they plan to appeal in the Supreme Court.

The Jamaat-e-Islami party rejects the tribunal and staged a strike on Thursday in protest. After the verdict was announced it called a further two-day stoppage for Sunday and Monday.

Thousands of police have been deployed in Dhaka to maintain security.

As well as the 30 killed, at least 300 people were injured in clashes between police and Jamaat supporters across the country, police told the Reuters news agency.

Jamaat was opposed to Bangladeshi independence but denies any role in war crimes committed by pro-Pakistan militias.

Official estimates say more than three million people were killed in the war.
. . .
The verdict is the third issued by the controversial tribunal, which is trying a total of nine Jamaat leaders and two members of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Sayeedi was accused of working with the Al-Badr group during the independence struggle and carrying out numerous atrocities, including forcibly converting Hindus to Islam.

His critics say that during the war he formed a small group to loot and seize the property of Bengali Hindus and those who supported independence.

The tribunal found Sayeedi guilty of eight out of the 20 charges levelled against him. These were murder, torture, rape and forcibly converting Hindus to Islam.

State prosecutor Syed Haider Ali described the verdict as a "victory for the people", AFP reports. But in court Mr Sayeedi protested, blaming the judgement on the influence of bloggers and pro-government forces.

Earlier this month another Jamaat leader, Abdul Kader Mullah, was sentenced to life for crimes against humanity. Huge crowds have been demanding he be executed.

In January, former party leader Abul Kalam Azad was found guilty in absentia of eight charges of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death...
Updates:
Violence continued unabated in Bangladesh on Friday as at least 46 people were killed in clashes that erupted after a top leader of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami was handed down death penalty for "crimes against humanity" during the 1971 liberation war.
Scores of homes have been set on fire, women and girls have been assaulted, temples have been desecrated and statues of the goddess Kali have been destroyed...
Acts of violence, especially against Bangladesh's Hindu minority, and strikes (hartal) continue across the country as Jamaat-e-Islami supporters call for reunification with Pakistan, and the creation of a "pure" state, free of its non-Muslim population...
Muslim mobs still rampaging after sentencing of Jamaat-e-Islami leader, minority Hindu and Buddhist communities bore the brunt of the attacks as their houses and temples were vandalised and burnt down.
. . .
Hindu community leaders allege that the attacks were co-ordinated and widespread. So far, they say, more than 50 temples have been damaged and more than 1,500 houses destroyed in the attacks, which took place in nearly 20 districts over the last few weeks...
85 dead, 700 Hindu homes and 47 temples destroyed as violence over Jamaat-e-Islami leader's sentencing continues
The imam of one of the holiest sites for Muslims, Mecca, has criticized the decision to hang Jamat-i-Islami leader for his role of killing and raping in 1971
In a fresh attack on Hindus in Bangladesh, at least 15 people, including a freedom fighter and three women were beaten up in a hate attack in in Hatibandha upazila of Lalmonirhat on Friday night. In another incident, Islamists vandalised four idols by setting fire to a temple in Sadar upazila of Gazipur district on Friday...
Meanwhile, clashes between police and supporters of the country's biggest Islamic party left five dead on Friday during protests linked to ongoing war crimes trials, police and media said.
. . .
With the latest deaths, 94 people have now been killed in clashes linked to the trials since the war crimes court handed down the first of its verdicts in January over atrocities during Bangladesh's independence struggle from Pakistan...
At least four policemen were injured, one critically, and a firearms and a walky-talky were snatched from them when Islami Chhatra Shibir men clashed with law enforcers in Rajshahi city Monday morning.

One of the injured, Jahangir Alam, in-charge of Upashahar police camp, sustained critical injuries as Shibir men thrashed his head with bricks and hurled homemade bombs, said SM Moniruzzaman, commissioner of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP).

The 30-minute clash ensued around 10:30am when Shibir, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, brought out a procession from Shalbagan area and faced police resistance.

More than 300 Shibir men divided into two groups carried out the attack on police, leaving the four injured, said the RMP commissioner.

The three other injured constables are: Shafiqul Islam, Latifur Haider and Jakir Hossain. All the injured are the members of riot police...
Shibir men attack cops in Rajshahi again
The Daily Star, April 01, 2013
Thirty-four people including the local Union Parishad Chairman were arrested in raids through Chittagong's Fatickchharhi Upazila until Friday morning over the clashes that took place in the area.

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.
. . .
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.
. . .
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
The delegation from the WCC, a church grouping representing more than 500 million Christians, heard how minorities fear for their survival.

"[Religious minorities] are the main target of endangering Bangladesh to become a 'zero minority country' in future at the behest of the extremist groups," they were quoted as saying in a WCC report.

Thus far, Buddhists and Hindus have been hit the hardest by the new wave of violence; nearly 90 Buddhist and Hindu places of worship have been attacked.

However, Rev. David Anirudh Dass, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Bangladesh, said Christians still face a particular danger.

"Although Christians in the country have been spared from attacks this time," he told the WCC, "they are still more vulnerable than Hindus or Buddhists for being the only microscopic minority likely to face stark eventualities."...
A prominent leader of Bangladesh's opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party has been sentenced to death by the country's war crimes tribunal.

Muhammad Kamaruzzaman was found guilty on five out of seven counts of torture and mass murder committed during the 1971 war of independence.

The tribunal was set up in 2010 to try people accused of collaboration.

Kamaruzzaman, who denied the charges and said his trial was politically motivated, is set to appeal.

Jamaat says the government is using the trials to curb opposition activities ahead of elections due next year...
AKM Yusuf, the leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, was arrested in the capital Dhaka and charged with offences dating back to Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence with Pakistan.

His arrest comes after the sentencing to death last week of another Islamist party leader for wartime atrocities. That decision brought a wave of violent protest from supporters, and police say they are concerned about the risk of a backlash from Jamaat activists.

More than 100 people have been killed in protests and counter-protests since January, when a tribunal set up by the government to investigate alleged abuses in the war sentenced to death in absentia a former senior Jamaat-e-Islami figure...
The country's much criticised International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) charged Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan with 11 "crimes against humanity" counts including murder, confinement, abduction and torture.

"They have been charged with the murder of 19 top intellectuals during the war. They included writers, university professors, doctors and journalists," senior prosecutor Ziad Al Malum told AFP, adding both face the death penalty if convicted.

Rana Dasgupta, another prosecutor, told AFP that the court "has fixed July 15 for the opening statement" in their trial.

Some of the intellectuals the two men are accused of murdering, Malum said, are Sirajuddin Hossain, the executive editor of the Ittefaq daily newspaper; top playwright and Dhaka University professor Muneer Chowdhury; and the popular novelist Shahidullah Kaiser.

Both Mueen-Uddin and Khan were born in what was then East Pakistan before the nine-month war of independence against West Pakistan that ended in December 1971. They fled the country after Bangladesh successfully proclaimed its independence.

"Mueen-Uddin is living in Britain and Khan in the United States. The court has ordered the trial to be held in absentia and has provided defence lawyers for them," Malum said, adding the court was not seeking their extradition.
. . .
The current government says up to three million people were killed in the war, many murdered by locals who collaborated with Pakistani forces...
A war crimes court has found Islamist leader Ghulam Azam guilty of five charges relating to Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence with Pakistan.

Ghulam Azam was sentenced to 90 years in jail for his involvement in mass killings and rape during the war.

Supporters of Bangladesh's main Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party, which he led from 1969 until 2000, clashed with police ahead of the verdict.

It is the fifth sentence passed against current and former party leaders.

The court found Mr Azam, 90, guilty of five charges including conspiracy, incitement, planning, abetting and failing to prevent murder.

He faced more than 60 counts of crimes against humanity for his role in setting up militia groups which carried out atrocities during the war.Pro-government groups have also taken to the streets demanding death sentences for those being tried, accusing the tribunal of being too lenient.
. . .
The exact number of people killed during Bangladesh's nine-month war of secession is unclear: official Bangladeshi figures suggest as many as three million people died, but independent researchers suggest the death toll was around 500,000.
Four dead, including a 9 year old girl and dozens of wounded, buses, shops and private cars vandalized and set on fire. This is the provisional toll from the National hartal (strike) called in Bangladesh, after the verdict issued yesterday by the International Crimes Tribunal in Dhaka. The court sentenced 91 year old Islamist leader and former president of Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic Party), Ghulam Azam to 90 years in jail, for his role in the crimes committed during the Independence War (1971). A ruling that left everyone unhappy: the supporters of the Jamaat, are demanding their leaders absolution, Gonojagoron Mancha civil rights activists instead say the sentence is too light and call for the death penalty.

The courts have recognized Azam guilty of all the charges: murder, torture of unarmed people, conspiracy, incitement and complicity in genocide. Being 91, by law the judges spared Ghulam the death penalty.

Yesterday, there were demonstrations inside and outside the courtroom. Gonojagoron Mancha activists gathered in Shahbagh, district of Dhaka considered the "Tahrir Square" of Bangladesh, calling for the death penalty. Today both the Islamic party that secular movement have called for a hartal, which as expected has turned into urban warfare.

Activists of Jamaat and Islami Chhatra Shibir (student wing of the party), detonated 11 homemade bombs in Chittagong, nine in Comilla and one in Narayanganj. Of the four deaths, two are students of the Islami Chhatra Shibir, killed in clashes with the police. The others are a 60 year old man, who was killed in Dinajpur by bricks thrown by some picketers, and a 9 year old girl, knocked down in Gazipur by a bus trying to flee the violence.
In the United States, Ashrafuzzaman Khan ostensibly is a respected Muslim cleric, president of the Imams of America association and past secretary general of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).

In Bangladesh, a court is hearing evidence alleging that Khan is a war criminal, someone who helped draft a list of intellectuals who would later be kidnapped and killed in the final days of the 1971 war of liberation against Pakistan.

Khan, 65, is being tried in absentia. Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal ruled last month that "there are sufficient and substantial materials" to warrant proceeding to trial against him on 11 war crimes counts.

He remains on the executive board of ICNA's New York chapter and has not commented publicly on the allegations. He is being tried along with Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, a prominent imam in the United Kingdom who helped create the Muslim Council of Britain.

The two are accused of leading a killing squad called Al-Badar, which was an offshoot of the Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami. The Islamists supported Pakistan during the war. As many as 3 million people died in battle for independence and millions more sought refuge in neighboring India. In its final days in December 1971, dozens of intellectuals – journalists, doctors, professors and others – were systematically rounded up. They were taken from their homes at gunpoint and later found in a mass grave. In some cases, the charging papers say, the bodies were never recovered.

"Al-Badar acted as 'killing squad', in furtherance of plan and policy of Pakistani occupation army," the Tribunal's prosecution wrote. Khan was the "'chief executor' of Al-Badar to the accomplishment of the barbaric crimes, in furtherance of common plan and design, with intent to paralyze the Bengali nation."

Britain's Channel 4 broadcast a documentary on Bangladesh's war of independence and the resulting atrocities which can be seen here.

Khan allegedly was on a central committee for the Jamaat-e-Islami's student wing, called Islami Chatra Sangha. The names of many victims were found in a diary found in Khan's home after he fled the country.

Khan's court-appointed attorney denies the charges, saying the Pakistani army was responsible for the killings and that Khan was never in Al-Badar.

So far, three witnesses have placed Khan at the scene of abductions:
. . .

The Supreme Court of Bangladesh sentenced to death Abdul Quader Mollah, deputy secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami (the first Islamic party in the country), for crimes against humanity committed during Bangladesh's war of liberation from Pakistan in 1971.

When verdict was read, many of his supporters staged violent protests in Chittagong. In the ensuing clashes, two policemen were injured. Since then, tensions continue to run high.

Mollah, 65, is accused of having planned a series of executions, including the massacre of Mirpur (a Dhaka district), which earned him the nickname of koshai, the "butcher".

An international tribunal had sentenced him to life imprisonment on the same charges last February.

Mollah challenged the verdict in appeal to the Supreme Court, which, however, upheld the conviction and increased the sentence...

Egypt: Muslims surround Christian Church in Shubra al-Kheima in attempt to stop construction

A group of Islamists surround the Abu Maqar Church in Shubra al-Kheima on Monday in an attempt to stop construction on the church's annex, claiming that the building is not licensed, said sources from the Qalyubiya security department.

Security forces were deployed to the area to convince the group to step down and allow work to resume, the sources claimed.

Ramsis al-Deiry, a member of the Shubra al-Kheima archbishopric's Millet Council, said group of Salafis and members affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood surrounded the building and prevented workers from resuming construction.

Iran: Ex-intelligence minister wanted by Interpol for the 1995 attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires to run for president

ne of the most feared figures of Iran’s Islamic establishment has announced his candidacy in the country's June 14 presidential vote.

Ali Fallahian, a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts who served as intelligence minister under former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, has been accused of involvement in the killings of Iranian dissidents and is on Interpol’s wanted list for alleged participation in the 1995 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.

He announced his candidacy on February 19 in Birjand. “People’s requests to me have reached a threshold; my candidacy in the presidential vote is definite,” Fallahian said.

Fallahian, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2001, said his campaign slogan will be “Advanced Islamic Country,” and that stabilizing prices and fighting inflation will be among his priorities.

Fallahian seemed to suggest that if he were elected he would halt Iran's controversial uranium-enrichment program. "Enough of nuclear. We don't want nuclear enrichment, we have already mastered its knowledge," he said.

He also appeared to suggest that he would seek improved ties with the United States. "Given the many offers made by the Americans at different occasions, and the U.S. need for Iran’s support to create stability in the region -- including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Tunisia, and Egypt -- I see a bright horizon for the ties between Iran and the U.S," he said during his announcement.

But Interpol would like to see Fallahian in custody. And he is the second Iranian official on Interpol's wanted list to announce presidential aspirations.

The other is Mohsen Rezai, secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council and a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Rezai said on February 19 that he will officially announce his candidacy in the coming days.

Like Fallahian, Rezai is suspected of playing a role in the Buenos Aires Jewish center bombing.

Associated With Several Murders

For many Iranians, Fallahian’s name is closely associated with several murders and disappearances of Iranian intellectuals while he was serving as intelligence minister from 1989 to 1997.

Rights groups and a German court have linked the 68-year-old to several such murders, both inside and outside the country, and he has also been implicated in the 1992 assassinations of three Iranian Kurdish opposition leaders.

After Fallahian left office his senior deputy, Said Emami, and several other Intelligence Ministry officials were arrested for the murders of four dissidents in 1998 and 1999. Emami subsequently died in prison and the authorities described his death as a suicide.

...

Turkey: Country aims to retrieve children fostered by Christians and gay couples

Turkey has embarked on a campaign to retrieve children of Turkish immigrant families living in Europe who are fostered by foreigners, and instead place them in homes where their cultural identity can be preserved.

The step comes after a court in the Netherlands refused last week to return nine-year-old Yunus -who had been taken into care by a Dutch lesbian couple - to his biological Turkish family, reportedly citing the mother’s inability to speak Dutch.

Turkey fears that children placed in Christian homes will forget their Muslim roots, and also disapproves of placements with gay couples.

A statement from Turkey’s expatriates authority YTB said that Yunus’s foster parents frequently took him to church, and that “out of his confusion about the family institution,” he calls both foster parents “mother.”

Following the verdict, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters: “Turkish families just do not want to give their kids to gay or lesbian couples.”

“It is important for kids to be raised in an environment similar to (their) home culture.”

Turkey had since stepped up efforts to guide the family through legal procedures to get Yunus back. Failing that, Bozdag said, authorities would push to get the boy placed with parents the family would approve of.

Unlike some European countries, same-sex marriages are not recognized in Muslim-majority Turkey where homosexuality remains taboo.

Former Families Minister Aliye Kavaf found herself at the center of a public row in 2010 after she described homosexuality as a “disease that needs to be treated.”

The campaign specifically concerns the children of Turkish families living in countries like Germany or the Netherlands, both home to large Turkish expatriate populations.

Germany is home to at least three million Turks, who make up the country’s largest minority, while around half a million Turks have set up home in the Netherlands.

Turkey’s parliamentary Human Rights Commission estimates that at least 5,000 Turkish children in Germany have been placed in foster care.

While the commission has not submitted any formal request to retrieve Turkish children, international conventions do give Turkey the right to do so, ruling party lawmaker Ayhan Sefer Ustun, who heads the commission, told AFP.

“We might exercise that right if protective measures continue to pose this problem,” he warned.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Levent Gumrukcu confirmed that Ankara was keeping a “watchful eye” on fostering abroad.

European fostering bodies take children into their care for different reasons: the death of the parents, poverty or parental negligence.

They say their priority is to place the children under the protection of the best possible caregiver.

“We try really hard to find the best possible match for the child in a foster home,” Hilje Wolfson, spokesperson for a Dutch foster foundation, told AFP.

“That’s why we always first look into the network: are there family members who can take care of a child?” she said. They did make efforts to keep Turkish children in their original environment so they could keep their ties with their culture, she added.

Part of the problem is that very few children are fostered by other Turkish families, usually only by European families.

“Throughout these 50 years we lived in Europe, we have established mosques, tea shops, restaurants... But apparently we never thought of our posterity,” said Kamil Altay, head of the Germany-based Umut Yildizi (Star of Hope), established to encourage Turkish expatriates to foster.

“There were virtually no Turkish foster families before this campaign - kids naturally end up with European families and forget their languages and culture,” he added.

“After years of foster care, they sometimes do not even know they are Turkish.”

In the case that a child needs fostering, the NGO helps families submit to court a list of potential legal guardians they know and trust, the head of Umut Yildizi's Dutch branch Kasim Akdemir told AFP.

“Families do not even know their rights... If more Turks step in, this will help relieve the Dutch authorities too,” Akdemir added.

“I think (children) are way happier if they are placed in Turkish families, who speak their language, cook meals the way their mother does,” said Nejla Buran, a 47-year-old Turkish activist. In 2007, she became a foster mother to two brothers, then aged two-and-a-half and eight.

Buran, who also has three children of her own, said she believes the boys would have suffered a “second trauma” if they had been placed in a German home, with parents who did not speak their language.

“The welfare agency instructed the boys to address me as Frau (Mrs) Buran but they switched to ‘auntie’ right away,” she said.

And, she added: “Our doors are also open to the biological family any time of the day.”

Pakistan: Muslim attacks disabled Christian for money, police deny any investigation

"I want justice, but no one supports me to open an investigation or initiate investigations against my assailants." This is the cry of pain, dramatic and hopeless, of 35 year-old Christian Khalid Masih, a native of the district of Faisalabad, Punjab, victim of brutal violence, triggered by trivial economic issues. The police however are refusing to take the victim's statement, and three weeks on from the incident the criminals still go unpunished. As too often happens in Pakistan, when the victim is a Christian and his executioners belong to the Muslim majority and the violation of laws and rights takes place in complete indifference.

The case dates back to February 2, when the man, who is disabled and walks with the aid of crutches, was asked to act as a mediator - free of charge - in a trade that involved two people: the Christian Babar Masih, a cousin of Khalid, and the Muslim Irshad Gujjar. The first gave the second his mope head, in exchange for a horse. The next day Irshad wanted additional money, because his animal "is worth a lot more."

Khalid Masih (pictured) replied that was impossible to change the terms, because his cousin had left the village immediately after the deal. On February 6, Irshad Gujjar, with his cousin Aslam, went to Khalid's house and asked him to follow them, to go and pray at the bedside of their grandson who was very sick. The 35 year-old Christian usually earned small amounts of money praying for the poor and sick, so he did not suspect the trap.

They lead him to a distant field five kilometres from the village, dragged him from the car and stabbed him several times with a knife - injuring his hands and lips - then they shot his knee caps twice. Some farmers in the vicinity, including a Christian, heard the shots and called for help. The doctors of the Civil Hospital in Faisalabad stabilized Khalid's condition and after a few days, he recovered.

However, despite repeated appeals for justice, his assailants are at large and unpunished. "I am a poor Christian and pray for others - he tells AsiaNews - and all I am asking for is justice." The bitter comment of Fr. Aftab James Paul, director of the Diocesan Commission for Interreligious Dialogue, is that "the criminals wanted to make money illegally" from a poor man, who "deserves justice and should be assisted in all situations, including legal."

France: Paris will not play a "bidding game" with Muslims who kidnapped family last week in Cameroon

France will not negotiate with gunmen claiming to be from the Nigerian group Boko Haram who kidnapped a French family of seven, the country's defence minister said on Tuesday.

The three adults and four children were seized in north Cameroon near the Nigerian border last week. In a video posted on YouTube on Monday, gunmen threatened to kill them unless authorities in Nigeria and Cameroon release prisoners held there.

But in an interview with RTL radio, Jean-Yves Le Drian rejected a "bidding game" with kidnappers. "We do not negotiate on that kind of basis, with these kind of groups," he said. "We will use all [other] possiblie means to ensure these and other hostage are freed."

The abduction was the first case of foreigners being seized in the mostly Muslim north of Cameroon, a former French colony. But the region - with typically porous borders - is considered within the operational sphere of Boko Haram and fellow Nigerian militants Ansaru.

'A war on Islam'

The kidnapping highlighted the risk to French citizens in Africa since Paris sent troops into Mali to oust Islamists there.

"The president of France has launched a war on Islam," said one of the apparent kidnappers in the video, warning the hostages would be killed if their demands were not met.

French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault confirmed that Boko Haram had kidnapped the family, saying they were probably being held in Nigeria.

"The video tape... is being studied by our [intelligence] services, who are examining precisely the nature of these claims," he said. "French authorities are in close and permanent contact with Nigerian and Cameroonian authorities."

A source close to the family confirmed the identities of the family members shown in the video to the AFP news agency. It was not clear when the video was made.

Cameroon's communication minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary said he could not comment because his government was not aware of the video.

The governor of Cameroon's Far North Region, Augustine Fonka Awa, said he was not aware of any Boko Haram members being held in the country.

UK: Imam ordered to pay back thousands of pounds to sponsors of a new mosque he never intended to build

A Muslim cleric has been ordered to pay back thousands of pounds to sponsors of a new mosque he never intended to build.

Imam Miah Rahman promised to use the cash to build the place of worship in Brentwood, because the congregation were having to use a local community hall.

But angry donors were left empty-handed when the proposals were shelved two years later and the money mysteriously vanished. One woman had helped collect more than £84,000 for the project and two doctors handed over more than £15,000.

But when they demanded their money back Rahman argued that the cash was intended as 'gifts' and had been used for other Islamic purposes, Central London County Court heard.

He said the cash was for general work supporting Islam in and around the town.

Judge Nigel Gerald found that Rahman and his co defendant Mohammed Edoo, had never had the intention or ability to set up a mosque in the community.

He said that they had counted on the complainants not being willing to go to court against an imam.

He said: "It seems to me quite clear that these defendants hoped the claimants would cower, rather than face an imam in court. "But the claimants were made of sterner stuff, being truly committed to the fulfilment of their article of faith."

He added that money had been donated for a specific purpose and that that purpose had not materialised.

He said: "It failed sometime before July 14, 2008. There was no intention to successfully bid at the auction, because the money had already been spent.

"These defendants have no intention or ability to carry out the original intent.

"Money was raised for a specific purpose and it has been misapplied.

"It was a game of roulette they were playing, they lost."

A total of 13 claimants brought the case against Rahman and Edoo, who was also involved in raising the funds. All were then practising Muslims living in and around Brentwood and Billericay.

Sidra Naeem, who was then working as a Sunday school teacher, told the hearing she helped collect more than £84,000 for the project. A handful of people who filled out forms explicitly stating they were providing cash as loans under Islamic law, totalling around £10,000, were later reimbursed - but others were left out of pocket.

"Most of these people who signed these forms didn't want the money back if the mosque materialised," she said, describing two big fundraising drives in 2005 and 2007. "It's because the mosque didn't materialise that they wanted it back.

"It was a year later that we found out the mosque wasn't there. It was after that when there was quite a big uproar in the community, that people started asking for their money back."

The court heard "probably hundreds" of others gave money in other ways without filling out the loan forms.

Following a complaint by Dr Reshma Rasheed, a local GP who had given £1,500, police investigated both Rahman and Edoo on suspicion of fraud, but decided against a criminal prosecution.

Mrs Naeem said: "Once the mosque dissolved lots and lots of people started asking me for the money back. I'd obviously handed it to Mr Rahman...
Muslim cleric ordered to pay back thousands of pounds
This Is Total Essex, February 25, 2013

Afghanistan: President Karzai orders US special forces to leave Wardak province within two weeks

The Afghan president has ordered US special forces to leave Wardak province within two weeks.

The decision was being taken due to allegations of disappearances and torture by Afghans considered to be part of US special forces, said a spokesman for Hamid Karzai.

The strategically significant, central province of Wardak has been the recent focus of counter-insurgency operations.

A US statement said it took all allegations of misconduct seriously.

But the US could not comment specifically on this latest development "until we have had a chance to speak with senior government officials", the statement by a spokesman for US special forces said.

"This is an important issue that we must discuss with our Afghan counterparts," the statement said.

The Afghan president's office said the decision to order the expulsion of US special forces had been taken at a meeting of the National Security Council.

"After a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as US special force[s] stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people," it said.


"A recent example in the province is an incident in which nine people were disappeared in an operation by this suspicious force and in a separate incident a student was taken away at night from his home, whose tortured body with throat cut was found two days later under a bridge.

"However, Americans reject having conducted any such operation and any involvement of their special force.

"The meeting strongly noted that such actions have caused local public resentment and hatred."

The presidential statement said Afghan forces were "duty bound" to put a stop to such behaviour, and urged local people to co-operate in bringing them to justice.

In a hastily convened news conference, a presidential spokesman suggested many of the allegations centred on Afghan citizens he alleged were working with US special forces.

"There are some individuals, some Afghans, who are working within these cells, within these [US] special forces groups" in Wardak province, said spokesman Aimal Faizi.

"But they are part of US special forces according to our sources and according to our local officials working in the province," he said.

He said all special forces must leave Wardak within two weeks...

India: 'Dirty' and 'defected' trans individuals should be expelled from homes, encourages Muslim leader (video)

A video in which a Muslim leader decries the transgender community has gone viral on YouTube.

The interview, translated from Hindi, shows the founder and president of India's Islamic Research Center (IRC), a non-profit organization that promotes Islamic teachings, answering a question about how the 'other' gender that is neither man nor woman fits in Islam.

Faiz Syed said in his response: 'They are what we call hijra, in our language. They are neither male nor female.'

Hijra, a slang term in Hindu, is the only word to describe a trans individual.

Syed continued, emphasizing that 'They are Allah's creations, expect their are some physiological and hormonal difficulties. They have changes in their bodies, what we call "gene defects" in our language.'

According to his bio on the IRC website, Syed is a university-educated leader with two bachelor's degrees in law and one in computer science. He has reportedly given over 1,000 lectures in topics including humanitarian and Islamic law, and moral, educational, and economic welfare activities. Syed is also the president and director of other Islamic groups including the Al-Huda Educational Foundation.

In the interview, Syed quoted the sayings of the prophet Muhammad, also called the Hadith, to support his position against the hijra community. 'Secondly, they are not bad, but the Hadith says that those who are "dirty", you must get rid of from your home, house and village.

'Because of their defect they are not like, or act like, men or women, and because of that they work day and night sexually.'

Many hijra are forced to work as sex workers to survive, as they are often ostracized from their homes and shunned from typical work in their local communities because they don't fit the typical gender mold.

In many predominantly Muslim countries, including Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, homosexuality is considered a crime punishable by death. Some countries such as Iran go so far as to encourage sex changes for homosexuals to force them to have a gender-normative sex life.

According to Iranian news services reports, Iran conducts more sex changes than any country in the world, followed by Thailand. This practice offers an option with 'no sin' for people struggling with gender identity in the homophobic country...

Nigeria: 21 Muslims used machetes and guns to murder 10 members of the same Christian family, half the victims under the age of 6

Christians in central Nigeria could mourn their dead Sunday, February 24, after the massacre of a Christian family while sectarian clashes killed one person and left churches, homes and mosques burnt, officials said.

In one the worst incidents since Thursday, February 21, suspected Muslim attackers used machetes and guns to murder 10 members of the same Christian family in Plateau state, with half the victims under the age of six, the military and government confirmed.

"A [Christian Berom] family of 10 were ... murdered" by Muslim Fulani herdsmen said Pam Ayuba, the governor's spokesman, in published remarks. "Five little children including a two-month-old child were slaughtered."

Members of the mostly Christian Berom ethnic group, who consider themselves the state's indigenous people, have previously accused the military of involvement in violence on behalf of the Fulani.

MILITARY DENIES WRONGDOING

However French news agency AFP quoted a military spokesman in Plateau, Lt. Kingsley Amos, as saying no soldiers were involved in the attack.

"Somehow, some hoodlums and criminals gained access to our old uniforms...but I can assure that none of our people were involved," he said.

Nigerian Christians have reportedly suffered much under recent violence.

Soon after Thursday's massacre, frustration over deep rooted religious tensions emerged around a football fiend in neighboring Taraba state where riots left at least one person dead, authorities said.

The violence Saturday, February 23, in the central town of Wukari began when Muslim and religious Christian football teams argued over who had the right to a football pitch, Taraba state police spokesman Amos Olaoye said in a statement.
. . .
WIDER DEADLY CAMPAIGN

It has waged a deadly insurgency in north and central Nigeria as part of its efforts to establish an Islamic state, killing hundreds since 2009, and urging surviving Christians to leave.

Despite reported Islamic treats and violence, Christians who can, still worship in Nigerian churches.

Hard-line Islamists are also accused of using the airwaves to spread hatred. On Saturday, February 23, Nigeria confirmed it had suspended the licence of a radio station for allegedly encouraging deadly attacks on polio clinic.

Suspected Islamic gunmen attacked two polio clinics in the northern city of Kano on February 8, killing at least 10 people, after Wazobia FM broadcast a story reviving claims that the vaccines are part of a Western plot to harm Muslims.

Two journalists and an Islamic cleric were reportedly charged with inciting violence, but the station chief Sanusi Kankarofi denied the allegations, and resigned in protest after his colleagues were charged...

Yemen: Austrian hostage appeals for ransom money with AK-47 pointed at his head (video)

An Austrian man taken hostage in Yemen in December has appeared in a video posted on YouTube, saying he would be killed if ransom money was not paid to a Yemeni tribe within a week.

Pictured with what appeared to be an AK47 automatic rifle pointed at his head, Dominik Neubauer said he was in good health and appealed to the Yemeni and Austrian governments and the European Union to give his hostage takers what they wanted.

"Mum, Dad, Lucas, Angela, I love you more than anything. Up until now I am in good health," the 26-year-old Arabic studies student said in the video posted on Feb. 21.

Neubauer was snatched along with a Finnish couple by tribesmen in the centre of the capital Sanaa on Dec. 21, according to the Yemeni government. Yemen has said the three were later sold to al Qaeda members and transferred to the small town of al-Manaseh south of the capital.

A spokesman for the Austrian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday the government was acting on the assumption the video was genuine, and was in intensive contact with the Yemeni authorities and also with the Finnish government.

"This is the first sign of life we have from Mr Neubauer," he said.

He said Austria would not allow itself to be blackmailed, and said there was no concrete group that had made itself known as the hostage-takers.

The spokesman added that the ministry had received the video on Saturday. He declined to say where the ministry had got it from.

"We want to see the return of a healthy hostage," he said, adding that the foreign, interior and defence ministries and the chancellery had been in crisis talks on Saturday that would likely continue on Sunday.

The spokesman said he did not know whether Neubauer was still together with the Finnish hostages.

The Finnish Foreign Ministry said the appearance of the video did not increase the risks for the Finnish couple. "According to our information, no similar threat has been published on the Finnish couple," a spokesman said.

"The time limits are common in these kind of demands, and often they are flexible. There is no need to draw too many conclusions over this," he said.

Finland has several officials in Yemen working on the case.

Yemen last month suspended a military operation against al-Qaeda-linked militants in al-Manaseh while tribal leaders tried to secure the release of the three hostages.

The army had begun an offensive, in which about 8,000 soldiers were taking part, after the militants rejected demands to release them.

UK: Muslim MP calls for the reinstatement of spy cameras in predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham after failed bomb plot

Further commentary surrounding this news story can be read on FaithFreedom International.

A Birmingham MP has called for the reinstatement of controversial spy cameras in predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham in the wake of a failed suicide bomb plot.

Khalid Mahmood said the relaunch of the Project Champion scheme to monitor the movement of cars and people in Sparkhill, Ward End and Washwood Heath “could ensure the safety and security for people in Birmingham and the whole UK.”

The Muslim MP spoke out after the ringleaders of a failed terror plot hatched in Sparkhill were convicted of planning a bombing campaign that, if successful, would have killed more people than the 7/7 attacks in London.

A total of 218 cameras – including 64 covert – were installed in the three areas of Birmingham during the disastrous £3million Project Champion scheme in 2010.

The mix of CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras would have monitored people and vehicles travelling through the inner city areas.

But the cameras were never switched on and were shelved in June 2010 following a massive public backlash over the lack of community consultation.

West Midlands Police later apologised after it emerged that they had been installed by its counter-terrorism unit with the consent of the Home Office and MI5.

The shambolic affair ended when the cameras were taken down in 2011. The Mail revealed last year that some were later thrown in the bin, while others were sold on for just £1.

On Thursday, the ringleaders of the Birmingham terror plot were warned they face life in prison after being found guilty of terrorism offences.

And Mr Mahmood, the Labour MP for Perry Barr, said the convictions highlighted the potential benefits of Project Champion...

Iran: Four grand ayatollahs issue fatwa against the use of 3G mobile technology

Four grand ayatollahs issued a fatwa that strips Iran’s third mobile phone operator from its rights to use a new 3G mobile internet operator.

The fatwa was issued towards Iran’s mobile service provider, Rightel, which enables customers to use video calling and multi-media messaging technology. The service uses 3G technology which is Iranian’s first encounter with telecommunication expansion.

Iran’s conservative parliament and the four grand ayatollahs are working on shutting down the 3G operator. Ayatollah Alavi Gorghani said providing this technology to the public would inflict damages on the country’s political and religion systems. Another ayatollah said the 3G service Rightel is leading to corruption of Iranians rather than benefiting them.

“It will cause new deviances in our society, which is unfortunately already plagued with deviances,” said ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi.

Residents of Qom, a religious city in Iran, signed a petition against Rightel on Feb. 10, the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Republic accusing the phone company of facilitating “access to sin and decadence”...

France: Muslim smashes up church, leaves Qur'an and Muslim prayer mat inside and writes "Allahu Akbar" on statues

A 24-year-old Moroccan has been arrested in Strasbourg, suspected of having damaged statues in a church and of having placed a prayer carpet and a Koran stolen from a mosque.

Taken into custody on Thursday, the suspect has acknowledged the facts. He is going to be subjected to psychiatric examination. According to the priest of the church concerned, located in the centre of Strasbourg, he "probably" has psychological problems.

The man is suspected of having toppled around 15 statues. "He wrote 'Allah ou akbar' [God is the greatest] in Arabic with chalk, especially underneath thet status, and placed a Koran on a pulpit," specified the priest.

The man was exposed by officials of the Grand Mosque of Strasbourg, who noticed that several times he had stolen objects from the mosque, including the imam's prayer carpet, indicated one of the officials of the mosque.

US: Jury in San Diego convicts four Somali men including an imam from a local mosque of terrorist support

A federal jury in San Diego has convicted four Somali immigrants -- including an imam from a local mosque -- of conspiring to funnel money to a terrorist group in their home country.

After a three-week trial and three days of deliberations, the jury convicted the four men Friday of conspiring to raise and send money to Somalia's al-Shabaab (AHL-shuh-BAHB').

The U.S. State Department designated al-Shabaab a terrorist group in 2008, and federal prosecutors have since cracked down on the group's U.S. support with the arrests of some two dozen people, mostly in Minnesota.

Those convicted include 40-year-old Mohamed Mohamud, an imam at a San Diego mosque, along with two taxi drivers and a man who operated a financial business that was used to move the money...

Egypt: 'convert to Islam or face death' Christians targeted by new Muslim terror group

A group of Christian priests from a local Coptic church in Egypt were told to convert to Islam or face death, according to an Arabic news site.

The incident, which comes in the midst of continued persecution and pressure on Egypt’s Christian community, took place this week in the town of Safaga, near the Red Sea, the El Balad site reported.

According to El Balad, the threats are from a new group in Egypt, Jihad al-Kufr, whose name translates to Jihad against non-believers or non-Muslims. The group targets non-Muslims, and reportedly pressures them to convert to Islam.

“It’s not the first time. This is happening every day,” said Adel Guindy, president of Coptic Solidarity and a member of Egypt’s Coptic community who travels between Paris and Cairo. “This one incident caught the attention of the news agencies, but there are worse things happening to the Christians every day in Egypt,” he said.

Christians have felt increasingly at risk since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, which resulted in the rise of President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

“It has definitely worsened under the revolution. Once the worst part of the society surfaced -- the Islamists -- the Copts are paying a heavy price. The West doesn’t really feel our pain. It’s a war of attrition,” Guindy said.
. . .
Egypt’s new constitution has come under scrutiny by many for including elements of Sharia, or Islamic law, while simultaneously legitimizing the marginalization of the country’s religious minorities by denying them legal protection. It also granted increased powers to Morsi, who self-declared sweeping powers in a Nov. 22 power grab that prompted heavy international criticism.

The new constitution was ratified after its second referendum in late December, winning more than 70 percent of the vote. Moderate Egyptians took to the streets to protest the rushed ratification, but the demonstrations were quickly quashed.

Some believe members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic extremists, emboldened by the constitution’s passage, have stepped up attacks against Egyptian Christians.

“There was a relative amount of freedom (for Christians) before Egypt’s revolution, and many were hoping for more freedoms, and now things are unfortunately much worse and much more difficult,” said Jason DeMars, founder of Present Truth Ministries, a Christian advocacy group that tracks religious persecution around the world.

“It’s what they’ve always wanted to do, but Mubarak held some of that back because of the support he got from the United States and other Western countries,” DeMars said. “People were paying attention, but now the extremists are seeing this as an opportunity to crack down on the community there.”

Extremists over the weekend set fire to a Christian Church in the Province of Fayoum, the second such assault against the town’s Coptic population in a month. The attackers ripped down the church’s cross and hurled rocks at church members, injuring four people including the priest, according to a report by Morning Star News.

There have also been several reported cases of rape and harassment of Coptic women. Two women in traditional Islamic headdress cut off the hair of two Christian women on the subway in Cairo in December, the Egypt Independent reported. It was the third such incident in two months.

And last week, an Egyptian court forced two Coptic Christian boys, ages 10 and 9, to face trial for “insulting the Koran,” according to reports. The boys were arrested after playing in a pile of trash, which authorities claimed included pages of the Koran.

Egypt's Coptic Christian leader, Pope Tawadros II, spoke openly this month when he dismissed the new constitution as discriminatory.

"We are a part of the soil of this nation and an extension of the pharaohs and their age before Christ,” he told the Associated Press. “Yes, we are a minority in the numerical sense, but we are not a minority when it comes to value, history, interaction and love for our nation."

UK: 3 Men guilty of mass bomb plot, group posed as charity workers and collected thousands of pounds

Three would-be suicide bombers who plotted to carry out an attack to rival the 7 July and 9/11 atrocities have been found guilty of terrorism charges.

Irfan Naseer, 31, Irfan Khalid, 27, and Ashik Ali, 27, from Birmingham, were found guilty at Woolwich Crown Court of being "central figures" in the plan.

Jurors were told they planned to set off up to eight bombs in rucksacks, using timers to detonate the charges.

Police described the men as "committed, passionate extremists".

The trio were arrested in 2011 amid fears an attack was imminent.

Detectives believe it is the most significant terror plot to be uncovered since the 2006 conspiracy to blow up transatlantic airliners using bombs disguised as soft drinks.

Khalid even boasted that the attack was "another 9/11" and "revenge for everything".

'Charity workers' The three men were found guilty of 12 counts of preparing for acts of terrorism between December 2010 and their arrest in September the following year.

The jury heard that Naseer and Khalid had received training from al-Qaeda contacts in Pakistan - and had recorded martyrdom videos there before returning to the UK.

Having recruited others, the group posed as legitimate charity workers on the streets of Birmingham and collected thousands of pounds from unsuspecting members of the public.

Naseer played a key role in sending four other Birmingham men to Pakistan to receive training. All of these have already pleaded guilty to preparing for acts of terrorism: Ishaaq Hussain, 21, Shahid Khan, 21, Naweed Ali, 25, and Khobaib Hussain, 22.

Two other Birmingham men who were part of Naseer and Khalid's plans, Rahin Ahmed, 27, and Mujahid Hussain, 21, have also pleaded guilty to terrorism charges.

The judge told the men they would all face life in prison when they were sentenced in April or May.

Mr Justice Henriques told Naseer he had been convicted on "overwhelming evidence" and that he faced "a very long minimum term".

He said: "You were seeking to recruit a team of somewhere between six and eight suicide bombers to carry out a spectacular bombing campaign, one which would create an anniversary along the lines of 7/7 or 9/11. It's clear that you were planning a terrorist outrage in Birmingham."
. . .
'Maim and kill' Karen Jones, specialist counter-terrorism prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "These men had dangerous aspirations and whilst the precise targets remained unclear, the potential for damage and loss of life from their plot should not be underestimated.

"The evidence we put to the court showed the defendants discussing with awe and admiration the attacks of 9/11 and 7/7. These terrorists wanted to do something bigger, speaking of how 7/7 had 'gone a bit wrong'."

Detective Inspector Adam Gough of West Midlands Police led the investigation into the men.

"There's no doubt whatsoever that they were the real deal," he said. "They are committed, passionate extremists. They had a real stated intention to kill and maim as many people as they possibly can. More than that, they not only had that intention, but they had the capacity and training to make that intention a reality.

"Naseer is a very devious and calculating man. He is someone who had a real hatred of western values, someone who wants to bring his influence to others and a compulsive liar. A very dangerous man."

Irfan Naseer told the trial that the hours of secret recordings of him talking about terrorism and bomb-making were all nonsense.

He said he had pretended to be a terrorist because he wanted to end rumours in his local community that he was a Pakistani spy. Ashik Ali denied wanting to be a terrorist. Irfan Khalid did not give evidence in his defence.
Birmingham men guilty of mass bomb plot
BBC News, February 21, 2013

UK: Dinner lady sacked for accidentally serving Muslims with non-halal meat, all 1,400 students served halal regardless of their religion

A dinner lady has been sacked for accidentally serving non-halal meat to Muslim students at a multi-faith school.

The incident outraged parents at the 'halal-only' Moseley School in Birmingham, and they have forced the headmaster to apologise for 'insulting' their faith. The member of staff has been dismissed after the 'unintentional error' on December 12 last year recently came to light.

All 1,400 students at Moseley school are served halal meat, regardless of their religion. It has not been specified what type of meat was served, but the person responsible for serving the food was dismissed following a disciplinary hearing last Monday.

Parents were informed of the mistake this month, and reacted with outrage, forcing headteacher Carl Jansen to apologise for the ‘unintentional error'. However, Muslim parents are demanding others be held accountable for the mistake, which they say call 'an insult to our faith’. ‘The school have failed the children,' one parent said yesterday. ‘How did this meal get into the school system to be fed to the children? ‘It's just shocking that dietary requirements haven't been met.' ‘It is a disgrace that this could be allowed to happen and we demand more action is take,' a father of a sixth form student said yesterday. ‘It could not just be the error or one lady, there must be people at the top responsible too who also need to be sacked. It is an insult to our faith.’

Not all parents have taken the news with the same shock, saying the dinner lady should not have been sacked over a mistake...

US: Muslim accused of beheading two Coptic Christians, burying their bodies, heads and hands in separate graves

Authorities in New Jersey allege a Muslim man beheaded two Coptic Christians, burying their bodies and heads and hands in separate graves near Philadelphia, bringing the horror of the persecution of Christians in Islamic nations to the United States.

According to New York’s WABC-TV, the Muslim was identified as Yusuf Ibrahim, 28. He was taken into custody after the bodies were found.

The report said investigators alleged Ibrahim killed the victims then severed their heads and hands, and buried the remains in the back yard of a home in Buena Vista, N.J.

The report said the victims were from the Coptic Christian community in the area. One of the victims had come from Egypt not many years ago.

While the report said police did not indicate a motive, friends of the victims wondered if it was something to do with religion.

WABC reporter Jeff Pegues wrote: “To members of the close knit Coptic Orthodox church the pain is real.”

“It’s a shock, something like this doesn’t happen to people like that,” one resident told him.

The report said police described the suspect as “ruthless” and “calculating” and said he belongs behind bars.

Pamela Geller, who blogs about Islam at Atlas Shrugs, said it “appear have been a ritual killing, religious in nature.”

“The victims were Coptic Christians and the murderer was Muslim (and we are painfully aware of the status and treatment of Coptic Christians under Muslim rule in Egypt),” she wrote.

“The killing evokes this passage in the Quran: ‘When thy Lord was revealing to the angels, ‘I am with you; so confirm the believers. I shall cast into the unbelievers’ hearts terror; so smite above the necks, and smite every finger of them!” – Quran 8:12.”

Samy Hohareb, a friend of the victims, said, “I leave it for the police and the investigation.”

The New York Daily News reported Ibrahim was nabbed by detectives on Sunday after the bodies were found.

Authorities said the suspect was found driving a white Mercedes Benz that belonged to one of the victims.

Ibrahim was being held at the Atlantic County jail on charges of murder and desecration of human remains...

Pakistan: Christian defending his religion shot dead by Muslim

Roshan Masih, a 45 year old Christian, was shot dead after an argument over religion in Lahore, capital of Punjab Province. Fides learned that the episode, on 16 February, brought bewilderment and grief ito the local Christian community : it was an act of murder in cold blood: Roshan’s defence of his Christian beliefs compared to Muslim beliefs, may have been considered ‘blasphemous’. Roshan Masih had converted from Hinduism to Christianity and about 20 ago settled in Lahore. Days before the murder he had a heated argument over religion with a local Muslim, Sohail Akhtar. The latter waited for his opportunity, and, on 16 February, seeing Roshan sitting outside a shop run by Sadiq Masih, another Christian, Sohail Akhtar, armed with a rifle, shot him dead there and then. The case was reported to the “Legal Evangelical Association Development” (LEAD), which in turn filed an official First Information Report with the police, accusing Sohail Akhtar of premeditated homicide. The assassin was arrested and taken into custody by the local police which has undertaken a serious investigation, after which the case will probably pass to the Legal Courts. “This is truly a tragedy: an innocent man is slain for defending his faith in a simple argument. The episode is emblematic of the conditions of Pakistani Christians. The authorities have a duty to guarantee the basic rights of Christian minorities”, Fides was told by lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill, of LEAD, the organization which defends and promotes Pakistan’s religious minority groups.

Israel: Man arrested for pouring acid on 16-year-old's face because she refused to marry member of his family

A 50-year-old Nazareth resident was arrested Tuesday morning for allegedly pouring acid on a 16-year-old girl's face after she refused to be betrothed to a man of his family. He was remanded in custody for five additional days.

The teen was taken to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa fearing eyesight damage. The hospital said she is in very serious condition. Doctors said that he eyesight has been damaged.

A police investigation reveals that at an early morning hour the suspect knocked on the girl's window and poured the acid over her face as she opened it.

The suspect is denying the allegations claiming he was home watching a soccer game at the time. His attorney remarked that the man is related to the victim.

The girl, who was injured in her face and upper torso, was initially taken to a local hospital, but as her condition deteriorated it was decided to rush her to Haifa's Rambam Medical Center.

The hospital reported that some acid reached the girl's mouth, causing her trouble in respiration. She also suffered damage to her eyes, and doctors are currently fighting to save her eyesight.

The hospital's Deputy Director Doctor Miki Halbertal said that "the burns' are pretty severe, she was hurt in the face and neck and is hospitalized in the intensive care unit in the hospital's pediatrics ward."

A police source said that "We suspect the suspect he attacked the girl because she refused to marry a member of his family."...

Pakistan: Taliban running out of suicide bombers

Taliban militants have been losing grip over the handling of their would-be suicide bombers. Of late they failed to carry out their missions as planned.

The anti-militancy offensives against the Taliban coupled with the killing of many experts who trained would-be suicide bombers have meant that many would-be bombers are stuck with shabby devices and are therefore unable to carry out other acts of terror, experts say.

The botched attack on a base at the Bacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar Dec. 15 is a glaring example. “The vehicle in which five terrorists were traveling exploded far from the security installations and personnel. The plan was for the militants to enter the airport in a suicide attack,” Brigadier Khalid Shah told IPS.

Reports said that the following day, five others on a suicide mission were killed in nearby Pawaka village. They were held up all night and had no contact with their handlers. The place they were sent to was unfamiliar to them because their handlers couldn’t reach them in the face of tight security.

“They had been sent by Tehreek Taliban Pakistan to the airbase in Peshawar,” said Shah, who fought against the Taliban in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) until his retirement in March 2012.

Security expert Major (retired) Shehrayar Khan says the killing of Taliban’s explosives expert Badr Mansoor and trainer of suicide bombers Qari Hussain Mehsud and others has had a tangible impact on the Taliban’s capacity to handle explosives and to train and equip suicide bombers.

The Taliban’s capability to hit targets with precision has decreased, he said. “The Taliban have been trying their level best to minimise civilian casualties in terrorist attacks and only hit forces and members of the Awami National Party and other opponents. But they have failed to do so.” said.

The Taliban have been facing scathing criticism for killing and injuring women, children and other innocent people in bomb and suicide attacks. Their efforts to single out their opponents and spare others have not been successful.

An explosives expert, Qari Hussain, had successfully trained newly-recruited young boys - introducing them to guns and explosives, brainwashing them, and playing a vital role in planning strikes, Major Khan said.

“The young guys from 10 to 18 years were indoctrinated with the help of videos and lectures in training camps in Waziristan that they would go to paradise after they kill army and police people in suicide attacks. This way, the Taliban killed hundreds of security people.”

The murder of Mansoor, who acted as a suspected bridge between al-Qaeda and Taliban groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and coordinated terrorist attacks, also came as a severe blow to the Taliban. Mansoor reportedly masterminded attacks on Ahmadis in Karachi and Lahore that killed about 100 people May 2010. Ahmadis are from a sect disowned by orthodox Muslims.

Jamil Khan from the special branch police told IPS that the failure of two suicide bombers to hit their target in Peshawar Dec. 2 was apparently due to lack of training and logistics support. Major Shehryar Khan said the surrender of another would-be bomber and his alleged handler in Peshawar Nov. 20, and the killing of a would-be bomber in Dera Ismail Khan Nov. 23 before a Muharram procession were clear manifestations that Taliban militants are losing their grip to use bombers as planned.

The special branch police say the Taliban have particularly lost experts who could manufacture explosives-laden jackets.

“The police have been fighting terrorism since 2005, they have come to know the Taliban's ways of planning operations, and are now in a better position to thwart such bids,” Khan said.

A woman sent by the Taliban to target former chief of Jamaat-e-Islamic (JI) Qazi Hussain Ahmed blew herself up after Qazi’s convoy had passed by Nov. 19 in Mohmand Agency of FATA. Five people were injured in the attack.

Jamiat Ulemai Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman escaped two suicide attacks in Swabi and Charsadda Mar. 30 and 31 last year. The second attack killed eight people and injured 29 others but failed with the intended target.

“Now the Taliban use women and children in terror acts because they have run out of suicide bombers,” said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister for the northern Pakistani province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). “They now send untrained people who are either arrested in time or who detonate their explosives at the wrong time.”

The Taliban are also running out of people to carry out these tasks, he said. “Militants don’t find enough ideologically motivated people who volunteer to become suicide bombers. Due to this many have been arrested in the past few months,” he said.

Shafqat Malik, head of the bomb disposal squad in KP said they had foiled more than 700 sabotage bids in 2012 because of the effectiveness of his department and the declining capacity of the terrorists. “The Taliban are no longer a massive threat because they can’t organise attacks like they did previously.

“We now have state-of-the-art equipment, snipers and gadgets that discover the IEDs. The government’s restrictions on the supply of the fertilisers have helped decrease the acts of terrorism.”
Taliban Running Out of Suicide Bombers
Inter Press Service, February 19, 2013

UK: Met will prosecute parents who send their girls abroad for genital mutilation operations

People who book flights to send girls abroad for genital mutilation operations will face prosecution in a new Met attempt to bring offenders to justice.

Scotland Yard chiefs say that parents, relatives and others who arrange transport and surgery will be targeted for criminal action as child abusers as detectives step up their efforts to combat the illegal practice.

The police move was revealed as a parliamentary hearing was warned that large numbers of girls aged as young as six are being sent from London to Africa for genital surgery which leaves them with painful and life-changing injuries.

It came as the Met disclosed that it is close to bringing the first British prosecution for female genital mutilation after receiving nearly 150 reports of cases involving girls in the capital already “cut” or at risk of surgery.

Giving evidence to MPs, Detective Chief Superintendent Keith Niven, the head of Scotland Yard’s child abuse command, said “a number of difficulties” had prevented prosecutions so far, but warned that parents and others who organised mutilation would face criminal charges as the Met improved its evidence-gathering methods.

“The people that commit the crimes are people that perform the act and the people that arrange for that to take place,” he said.

“So the parents would be liable to criminal prosecution, as would the people who book the flights, as would the people that ensure the transition of that process.”

Mr Niven, who was appearing before the Commons international development select committee, said one person suspected of preparing to send a child abroad for a genital operation was arrested days ago, and “clear” evidence of a crime was found in another case over which his officers are now seeking to bring charges.

He added: “The child was in care and came forward and disclosed that the crime had taken place. We were able to go ahead, gain the evidence and the evidence has been very clear. The individual has now got concerns about taking that to the next stage and that’s about reassurance and about engagement with the Crown Prosecution Service which we are about to do. Prosecution will send a very clear message. It is child abuse.”

Female genital mutilation, or FGM, which is practised in Africa and other parts of the world, involves the removal of parts or all of a girl’s clitoris and labia. It is illegal in Britain because of the lasting damage that it causes.

Efua Dorkenoo, a London director of the charity Equality Now, said some older girls were being “cut” to stop them becoming “too Westernised”.

But she warned that most victims were of primary school age. “Most FGM is done to kids under the age of 10,” she told the MPs...

Lebanon: Women take on Muslim judges who call rape a 'marital right'

Lebanese women are taking to the streets to demand that the government takes domestic violence seriously, by introducing laws to protect women from abusive partners.

Nadine Mouwad, a founder of feminist collective Nasawiya, says the prevalence of unveiled, glamorous women in Beirut can create the impression that Lebanon is more liberated from patriarchal cultural attitudes than neighboring countries.

But that's merely an illusion, she says.

"The problem is that we are sold a lot of fake freedoms that raise Lebanese women under the impression that they have freedom to go anywhere, freedom to dress the way they want to," she said.

For the past year and a half, Mouwad and fellow feminist activists have been demanding that politicians ignore the objections of Muslim religious authorities and pass a stalled law protecting women from domestic violence.

A draft version of the Law to Protect Women from Family Violence was approved by Lebanon's Cabinet in 2010, but has since become bogged down in parliament, mainly due to the objections of Sunni and Shia authorities.

The initial version of the bill was drafted to criminalize physical and sexual abuse, so-called "honor crimes" and marital rape, create specially-trained domestic violence response units within the police, and provide the legal framework for restraining orders to be issued against abusers.

But Lebanon's religious courts -- the judicial authorities presiding over each of the country's faith communities, with jurisdiction over matters of "personal status," including marriage problems -- have criticized the proposed law as an attempt to erode their authority.

Dar al-Fatwa, Lebanon's top Sunni authority, and the Higher Shi'a Islamic Council both said that they opposed the draft on the basis that Sharia law protected the status of women, and should remain the basis for governing legal issues related to Muslim families.

Domestic violence cases in Lebanon are typically heard in the religious courts, which often respond with rulings focused on preserving the family unit, rather protecting women from violence.

It's a response that abused women are usually met with from police as well, says Lebanese lawyer Amer Badreddine.

"They are told to solve the problem amicably, to keep it a family issue and not cause embarrassment to themselves by bringing it to the police," said Badreddine, who specializes in domestic violence cases.

He said the law also failed to recognize marital rape as a crime -- a position that some Muslim judges argue should be upheld.

Criminalizing marital rape "could lead to the imprisonment of the man," Sheik Ahmad Al-Kurdi, a judge in the Sunni religious court, told CNN, "where in reality he is exercising the least of his marital rights."...

Moderate Indonesia: Government official faces sack after divorcing child bride by text message

A government official who sparked outrage by marrying a child bride could be sacked after divorcing her by text message four days into their marriage.

Aceng Fikri, 40, chief of Garut district in West Java province, Indonesia, was already married with two children when he wed the young girl.

In another case that highlights attitudes towards women's rights in the Southeast Asian country, a judge joked during a supreme court job interview that women might enjoying being raped

But both officials are now at risk of losing their jobs, which has been seen as a small step forward by campaigners.

The supreme court has recommended the president dismiss Fikri for violating the marriage law, and police are investigating the case because it involves a minor.

The country's judicial commission has also called for Judge Muhammad Daming Sunusiat to be sacked for his comments about rape.

Unregistered polygamous marriages, such as Fikri's, are common in the archipelago. Although divorce by text message is rare, it is allowed under Islamic sharia law.

His ex-wife Fani Oktarahas, who was the legal age of 16 when she married him, denied his claims that she was not a virgin.

A photo of the wedding last summer was posted on the internet and caused a public outcry in the local media and on Twitter, blogs and Facebook.

Thousands of people took to the streets in December to protest, with student and women's rights activists demanding he resign.

Protesters trampled and spat on photos of his face before setting them ablaze outside the council building in Garut.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono responded by issuing a rare public condemnation of the 40-year-old official and his illegal marriage.

There has also been anger last month over the comments made by Judge Muhammad Daming Sunusiat at a parliamentary selection panel for a supreme court position.

He said it could be a mistake to impose the death penalty for rape because both the attacker and the victim 'might have enjoyed' it.

The remark reportedly drew laughter from panel members. Sunusi later apologised and said he had been joking.

Not only was Sunusi rejected for the job, but the country's Judicial Commission recommended that he be dismissed from his position on the South Sumatra high court.

But the supreme court would have to agree, and it has said such punishment would be too severe because he made the remark in an interview, not during a trial.

Husein Muhammad,of the commission on violence against women, said: 'Enough is enough!

'Our officials should no longer mess around and issue ridiculous statements even as a dumb joke.'

Women in the social-media-obsessed country have been rallying, online and on the streets, against sexists comments and attacks on women for some time.

The movement in a country of 240 million people, most of whom practice a moderate form of Islam, appears to be having some impact on the largely secular government.

Husein Muhammad added: 'We are living in a different era now. Now we have supporting laws and social media to bring severe consequences and social sanctions.'

But rights groups argue the country remains far behind on many issues involving gender equality and violence. Rape cases often are not properly investigated, and victims are sometimes blamed.

In 2011, after a woman was gang raped on a minibus, then-Jakarta governor Fauzi Bowo drew protests after warning women not to wear miniskirts on public transportation because it could arouse male passengers. Bowo lost his re-election bid last year.

A sex-trafficking case involving a 14-year-old girl prompted education minister Mohammad Nuh to say last year that not all girls who report such crimes are victims.

He said: 'They do it for fun, and then the girl alleges that it's rape.'

His response to the criticism he received was that it's difficult to prove whether sexual assault allegations are 'real rapes.'...

Tanzania: Catholic priest shot dead in Zanzibar days after pastor beheaded on mainland

A Catholic priest was shot dead Sunday, February 17, on his way to church in Tanzania's semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, just days after a pastor was beheaded by suspected Muslim extremists on the mainland, officials and Christians said.

"Father Evarist Mushi was blocked by two young men at the entrance of the church" in Zanzibar City, the capital, where "one of the attackers shot him in the head," said the island's police spokesman Mohammed Mhina in published remarks.

It was the second such attack on the Muslim-majority island of 1.2 million people in recent months. On Christmas Day, gunmen shot and seriously wounded a Catholic priest as he returned home from church.

Police did not know whether both attacks were related, but local Christians said there has been a rise in Islamic attacks against individual believers and churches.

Sunday's shooting came while on the mainland, in Tanzania's Geita Region, Christians were mourning the violent death of a pastor of an Assemblies of God Church.

PASTOR BEHEADED

Pastor Mathayo Kachili was reportedly beheaded Monday, February 11,by what witnesses called a mob of Muslim extremists and "radicals".

Police commander Denis Stephano told reporters that the killing in Buseresere town was sparked by tensions over whether Christians were allowed to open and operate butcheries in the area.

The killing sparked deadly riots between religious Christians and Muslims, with at least one attacker reportedly dying of his injuries, before police was able to intervene.

Pastor Kachili leaves behind a wife and several children who depended on his salary to make a living, Christians said.

In a reaction, rights group International Christian Concern (ICC) suggested that that this was part of a wider Islamic campaign against Christians in East Africa.

MORE VIOLENCE

"Just last week, two Christian pastors in Garissa, Kenya were attacked by Islamic extremists suspected to be connected with [militant group] al-Shabab," explained William Stark, ICC regional manager for Africa.

"The increase of attacks on Christians can be linked to the spread of radical Islam across East Africa. Groups like al-Shabab and its sympathizers have shown that they are not afraid to attack and kill Christians in countries that are traditionally thought of as Christian," he told BosNewsLife in a statement...

Iran: Buddha statues join Barbie dolls and characters from "The Simpsons" TV cartoon as banned items

Authorities are confiscating Buddha statues from shops in the Iranian capital, Tehran, to stop the promotion of Buddhism in the country, according to a report Sunday in the independent Arman daily.

Iran has long fought against items, such as Barbie toys, to defuse Western influence, but this appears to be the first time that Iranian authorities are showing an opposition to symbols from the East.

The newspaper quoted Saeed Jaberi Ansari, an official for the protection of Iran's cultural heritage, as calling the Buddha statues symbols of "cultural invasion." He said authorities will not permit a specific belief to be promoted through such items. Ansari did not say how many Buddhas had been seized, but that the "cleansing" would continue.

Some Iranians buy Buddha's statues to decorate their homes and cars. Most are made in China and come from Iranian free-trade zones in the Persian Gulf.

"As I understand, none of customers cared about Buddhism, they only bought it for decoration," said Reza Sanaei, a shopkeeper who sells the statues.

A customer, Marjan Arbabi, said she personally did not like the statues. "But my parents have set of five Buddah's statues at their home simply because they think the statues are beautiful," she said.

Under the constitution, Christian and Jewish beliefs as well as Zoroastrianism are recognized beside Islam, the official religion of the country. The law, however, says that, in general, the rights of all non-Muslims should be observed.

Some Islamists do not support production of any statue, since they view it as a way to promote idols...
Iran Confiscates Buddha Statues From Shops
The New York Times, February 17, 2013

Iran: 4 Christian converts arrested more than a year ago still held in prison awaiting trial

It is now more than a year since these four Christian converts were arrested in Shiraz. They are still being held in Adel-Abad prison in a ward known as "Ebrat" (edification) awaiting the court's decision.

According to Mohabat News, the four Christian converts' latest trial was held on December 28, 2012 in Branch 3 of the Revolutionary court in Shiraz. Mr. Rashidi-poor presided over the court session, while the prisoners' attorney was also present. The judge concluded the three hour long trial and announced that he will issue his verdict after Norouz Celebrations (March 21-25).

The Christian prisoners are Mojtaba Seyyed-Alaedin Hossein, Mohammad-Reza Partoei (also known as Koroush), Vahid Hakkani, and Homayoun Shokouhi. Since their arrest, they have been taken to the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz several times in a pitiful condition with their hands and feet chained, where their charges were officially announced as participating in house-church services, evangelizing and promoting Christianity, having contact with foreign Christian ministries, distributing propaganda against the regime and disturbing national security.

These four Christian converts were arrested as they gathered for worship in a house church on February 8, 2012. Security authorities who had identified the place beforehand, attacked and arrested these men together with some other attendees. They were mistreated and immediately transferred to prison.

As some reports indicate, during the hearing one of the court officials advised the families of these prisoners to change their attorney, because the judge had a serious issue with him.

On the other hand, it appears that following a similar pattern, judges and courts of Islamic Republic disregard the legal timeframe to issue decisions and do not care to deal with cases like this in a timely manner. It seems that they do so to put extra pressure on Christian prisoners and their families.

Keeping them in prison for more than a year in uncertainty, not granting them temporary leave permits and refusing to accept temporary release bails are considered obvious mental and physical torture of these Christian detainees.

Also, in some instances, judicial authorities pressure lawyers to reject their Christian clients. The uncertainty that Iranian authorities have shown toward these cases and the lengthy process for handling them encourages attorneys to refuse to defend Christians or to withdraw in the middle of the case.

Even before this, Iranian judicial authorities had stated that they would not accept bail for these Christians' release.

Prison authorities in Adel-Abad prison ordered that seven or eight Christian converts held in that prison be transferred to a newly built ward known as the "edification ward", where the least facilities are available.

It is reported that the "edification ward", is a place to hold detainees facing similar accusations.
Update:
One of the Christian prisoners in Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz is in critical health condition, suffering from a lack of much needed medical care.

According to Mohabat News correspondents, Vahid Hakkani, a Christian prisoner in Shiraz, is suffering from internal bleeding of his digestive system. As told by doctors in prison, he needs surgery urgently. However, prison officials do not seem to care and have not taken any action to accommodate his transfer to a hospital for the much needed surgery. Mr. Hakkani's condition has been reported as critical.

Unfortunately, prisoners of the ward known as "Ebrat" (meaning edification), Mr. Hakkani being among them, are not given even minimum care and time to get fresh air. This has caused physical and mental difficulties for many of them. The ward is especially dedicated to prisoners of conscience.

Also, because these prisoners are taken to medical centers with their hands and feet chained and are humiliated, they do not readily express personal interest to be transferred to hospital.

Mr. Hakkani, together with Mojtaba Seyyed-Alaedin Hossein, Mohammad-Reza Partoei (also known as Koroush), and Homayoun Shokouhi, were arrested as they gathered for worship in a house church on February 8, 2012. The security authorities arrested them as well as a number of other Christian believers in attendance for participating in house-church services, evangelizing and promoting Christianity, having contact with foreign Christian ministries, propagatin

UK: Top Muslim MP receives death threats, declared an apostate for voting in favor of gay marriage

Britain's most senior Muslim MP has received death threats after voting in favour of gay marriage.

Police have told Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, that the threats are credible enough that he should review the security around him and his family following the Commons vote.

Officers in his Tooting constituency in London have been put on high alert, and will respond ‘extra-quick’ should an incident be reported at his home.

The Metropolitan Police has also advised Mr Khan, 42, that they may put more officers around him if further threats are made. He told one friend he was especially concerned about those close to him, saying: ‘My family do not need to suffer for what I have to do for my job.

'I’ve not had threats like this before.’

Mr Khan was among 400 MPs, five of them Muslim, who voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at the beginning of this month.

It is believed Mr Khan, who was campaign manager for Ed Miliband’s successful leadership bid, has been singled out as he is the most prominent Muslim MP.

Mr Khan – who became Britain’s first Muslim Minister to attend Cabinet in the last Government – has been condemned by British-based hardline clerics, who have accused him of ‘selling out’ his religion.

Mufti Muhammed Aslam Naqshbandi Bandhalevi, who is the head imam of the Jamia Islamia Rizvia mosque in Bradford, has issued a fatwa, or ruling, declaring Mr Khan an ‘apostate’ from Islam and said he should ‘repent before Allah’.

Some veiled threats against all the Muslim MPs who backed gay marriage are visible online...

Egypt: Court orders the popular Al-Tet belly dancing channel to be taken off air

Egyptian administrative court rules in two separate cases on Saturday to cut the broadcast of a channel and a programme amid the recent rise in media-related cases.

In the first case, the court orders that the popular Al-Tet belly dancing channel be taken off air for broadcasting on satellite without a license.

The court ruling also accused the channel of airing "provocative advertisements" for sexual products and for facilitating escort-like services.

In May, the owner of Al-Tet, Baleegh Hamdi was arrested on suspicions of facilitating prostitution through his channel, but was later released. Anyone involved in prostitution could face three years in jail under Egyptian law.

In the other case, the administrative court rejects an appeal on Saturday by Sheikh Abdullah Badr and Atef Abdel-Rashid, the owner Al-Hafez religious channel, against a ruling on 12 January that barred Badr's programme Fi Al-Mizan for 30 days.

Prominent actress Elham Shahin and TV anchor Hala Sarhan filed the original lawsuit, demanding the Al-Hafez channel be shut down for insulting Shahin on his programme."Elham Shahin is cursed and she will never enter heaven," Badr said on air.

Badr was slammed on 17 December with a year in jail and bail set at LE20,000 (roughly $3,000) by a misdemeanour court.

Egypt: Preacher says those partaking Valentine’s Day are “committing a sin and will burn in hell”

An Egyptian Salafi preacher said those celebrating Valentine ’s Day or selling items related to the event are “committing a sin and will burn in hell”.

In an online video posted Wednesday, Ahmad Mahmoud Abdullah, known as “Abu Islam” and owner of the private television channel of “al-Ummah,”referred to February 14 as ‘adultery day’.

“February 14th,we celebrate “adultery” day. The Christian church will surely celebrate this day but I urge all Muslims and those who fear God, not to use anything tinted in red. Even al-Ahli team will not wear its red jersey” he said referring to the Egyptian national football team.

Abu Islam added that women going out to celebrate this day are considered ‘adultery and prostitution’.

“We [Muslims] do not have fornicators, we do not commit sins. Valentine’s Day represents for the Christians, a celebration for adultery and prostitution, and those who go out on this day are prostitutes. Each prostitute would choose a guy with whom she will spend her day and night” he said.

Abu Islam then further decided to ban all Muslim females in the Arab world from enjoying this day and indulging in what the celebrations has to offer.

“That was only the beginning, because they celebrate each and every saint’s day. They spend their life in celebration and “promiscuity”. What does love mean for them? Adultery, prostitution and obscenity” the preacher added.

The preacher has previously been accused of the defamation of religion. The Public Prosecution has received several notifications accusing him of defaming Christianity through statements he had made to the “Tahrir” newspaper.

He and his son also previously tore and burnt a bible in front of the U.S. Embassy in Egypt during last year’s protest against a U.S.-made film mocking Islam’s founder.

Mali: Fleeing Tuareg and Arab insurgents take their black African slaves with them

The insurgents who have fled from invading French troops in Mali have been taking with them some of their most important possessions — slaves.

The Tuareg tribes that overran Mali's military with the help of Arab extremist groups aligned with al-Qaeda have long held slaves and many of the captives are from families that have been enslaved for generations.

"It's no way to live, without your freedom," said Mohammed Yattara, a former slave who ran away from his Tuareg masters years ago.

"You depend on them for everything. If they tell you to do something, you have to do it, or they will beat you," he said as he sat with the chief of the village of Toya and among men and women who were descendants of slaves or former slaves.

"You can marry, but if the master wants to have sex with your wife, he will. Everything that's yours is theirs," Yattara said.

Tuaregs are a semi-nomadic people of North Africa's Sahara desert whose traditional land was divided into several nations, the borders of which were drawn by European colonialist powers.

They predate the Arab tribes that moved into the region centuries ago and in Mali, a former French colony, Tuaregs lived primarily in the north part of the country.

But in March, armed Tuaregs took control of the north from the Mali government and marched south with Islamists aligned with al-Qaeda. They took over the city of Timbuktu and threatened the capital of Bamako. The Islamists imposed strict shariah, or Islamic law, on inhabitants it controlled.

Some Tuaregs took advantage of their newly won control to reclaim freed or runaway slaves, mostly black Africans.

The French military arrived in January and retook Timbuktu from the Tuaregs, who fled into the desert or refugee camps in neighboring Burkina Faso and Mauritania, some taking slaves with them. Tuaregs and Arabs who failed to escape have been summarily killed, activist groups have said...

India: Imam and assistant arrested for possessing fake notes worth Rs. 2,800 ($518.69)

Yahriar, 22, of Bihar working as the imam at Salafi Masjid, Kadavanthra, who was arrested for possessing fake Indian currency notes, was remanded in police custody for detailed interrogation on Thursday.

Yahriar and his assistant Sayid, 88, of Kothamangalam, were arrested by the Town South Police after fake notes worth Rs. 2,800 was spotted among Rs.10,500 that Yahriar wanted to send to his home in Bihar.

The notes are believed to have been printed in Pakistan.

The officials at the shipyard branch of the State Bank of India spotted the fake notes and alerted the police. The police seized five fake notes of denomination Rs. 50; 56 notes of Rs. 20; 114 notes of Rs. 10; and 58 notes of Rs. 5 from the accused. Even though the police seized Rs. 30,000 during the search done at the masjid, it was found to be genuine currency during the detailed inspection. Police sources said that the fake notes were of high quality and could not be detected during the routine examination processes at banks. It required advanced techniques to spot them.

Both were produced before the court on Thursday, but Sayid was not remanded to custody as he collapsed in the court. He was working as assistant in different masjids in the city before coming to Salafi Masjid a couple of years ago. Yahriar was remanded in police custody for detailed interrogation.

Even though other investigative agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, grilled the two, the source of the fake notes could not be traced, it is learnt. Sayid has been maintaining that the money he had was collected through donations and Yahriar said that the money he took to the bank was from the lot kept by the former. A probe is on, said police sources.

Indonesia: Church minister jailed for allegedly conducting a service without a permit

The wife of a church minister who was jailed two weeks ago for allegedly conducting a service without a permit also faces arrest for defying an order from local authorities to stop holding services at a church in Sumedang, West Java.

Minister Bernhard Maukar and his wife, Corry, were holding a service at their Pentecostal church (GPdI) in Mekargalih village, Jatinangor subdistrict, on Jan. 27, when it was attacked by members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), who claimed that the church did not have a valid permit to operate.

CCTV footage obtained by the Jakarta Globe shows details of the attack where a gang of about 50 members from the hard-line organization scaled the gates of the religious facility, caused havoc and destruction within the place of worship and physically threatened the minister — at one point using Bernhard’s necktie to strangle him.

Bernhard was arrested by officials from the Sumedang Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) two days later for continuing to hold services without a valid permit, which breaks a 2005 local government law.

The minister is currently serving a three-month sentence at the Sumedang prison as he could not pay the Rp 25 million ($2,600) fine ordered by the district court.

Corry said this is the third major act of violence the FPI has inflicted upon them in the past two years.

The grandmother explained that the latest attack on the church, which has been running for 26 years, had significantly traumatized the 400-member congregation, many of whom are now too afraid to return.

The FPI did not respond to the Globe’s request for comments.
. . .

Indonesia: Pre-Valentine's Day raids - parks, hotels & cemeteries raided to combat immoral activity

Couples across Indonesia had their pre-Valentine’s Day plans interrupted on Wednesday as police and public order officers raided parks, hotel rooms and cemeteries in a campaign against immoral activity.

Late-night lovers were sent scrambling for their motorbikes in Bogor, West Java, after the local Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) raided eight parks, according to reports on Okezone.com. The couples were charged with disturbing public order and causing societal unrest before they were taken to the Bogor social agency for education, Bogor Satpol PP chief Hendi Iskandar said.

The teens were released to their parents’ custody.

“Some were sent back to their parents,” Hendi told Sindonews.com. “The rest were taken to a rehabilitation house.”
. . .
n Bojonegoro, East Java, police raided every hotel room in the city, arresting eight couples accused of adultery, according to Bharatanews.com. The officers reportedly barged in on the couples as they were engaged in “amorous encounters.”

A 25-year-old prison warden was arrested and charged with committing adultery with a 19-year-old woman in a rented house. A civil servant was also nabbed in the raid when police caught the 37-year-old with a woman in a hotel room. He allegedly told police the woman was his sister, but they didn’t believe him.

The couples were taken to the police station and ordered to write a statement promising they wouldn’t do it again.

Adultery is illegal under Article 284 of the Criminal Code and is punishable by a maximum of nine months in jail.

In Kendiri, East Java, the military joined the police and Satpol PP on the raids, scouring a Chinese cemetery, a sports center and the hillside for amorous couples, according to reports on Inilah.com. . .

Indonesia: Homemade molotov cocktails thrown at two churches in coordinated attacks

Police in Makassar, South Sulawesi, are standing guard outside churches after would-be arsonists hit two more churches in a second wave of attacks early Thursday morning.

Unknown assailants hurled homemade molotov cocktails at the South Sulawesi Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) and the Toraja Klassis Makassar Church Panakkukang Congregation in a pair of coordinated 4 a.m. attacks. Both churches suffered fire damage in the attempted firebombings, police said.

Witnesses quickly worked to extinguish the flames, but were unable to get a clear look at the perpetrators, South Sulawesi Police Spokesman Snr. Comr. Endi Sutendi said.
. . .
Thursday’s attempted church burnings were the second such attack in the past week. Police are now on high alert as officers search for those behind the attacks.

“We will guard all the churches in Makassar,” South Sulawesi Police Chief Insp. Gen. Mudji Waluyo told the Jakarta Globe. “There are at least two officers from Sabhara [the police public order unit] openly guarding each church while another keeps a discreet eye on it. We will also install CCTV at each church.”

Mudji said police will not tolerate such attacks.

Police believe this second wave of attempted church burnings are related to last week’s attacks. National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said the attacks were likely meant to stir religious controversy in South Sulawesi. Investigators didn’t find any evidence linking the attacks to known terrorist groups operating in either Poso or South Sulawesi.

Pakistan: 6 suicide bombers attack Bannu police station, 50 officers in station but only one injured

At least one army officer was injured when around six suicide bombers blew themselves up on a police station in Bannu on Thursday, reported Express News.

Security forces imposed a curfew in the area after the incident and started a search operation.

Police also recovered eight Kalashnikovs, 13 hand grenades and one suicide jacket from the attackers.

Around 50 officers were present inside the station when the attack took place, while more officers were called in for the search operation.

Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Bannu Nisar Tanoli confirmed that the area was declared clear after the search operation.
Six suicide bombers attack Bannu police station
The Express Tribune, February 14, 2013

UK: Community order for Muslim who claimed his religion allowed him to hit his wife

A Muslim man who claimed his religion entitled him to hit his wife has been given a community order.

Shamshu Miah, 58, of Alexandra Road, Llandudno, struck his wife three times after she did not get him a cigarette.

He later told police his religion allowed him to hit his wife if she did not do as she was told.

Yesterday Llandudno magistrates court heard his wife continued to support Miah, who suffered from bipolar episodes.

The court heard she wanted him to move back to the family home.

Miah was ordered to undertake community mental health treatment. He has to pay £85 costs.

Australia: Muslim College tells teachers to wear the hijab or face the sack

TWO female teachers from the Islamic College of South Australia have gone to court to fight against being unfairly dismissed based, in part, on their attire being considered inappropriate.

The teachers were sacked last year by the West Croydon school, which issued a warning to all female teachers - Muslim and non-Muslim - to wear a hijab head scarf or face the sack.

One of the teachers has taken a case of unfair dismissal to the civil court while the other's claim is being heard by Fair Work Australia.

School principal Kadir Emniyet yesterday defended the school's policy, which he said he had discussed with all 42 teachers. He said "90 per cent of them are happy to adhere to the policy".

The policy insists non-Muslim women to wear a head scarf, not a traditional hijab, and was installed in 1998 but dropped in 2010 by the former principal and board. It was reinstated at the start of this year with a verbal only order to staff.

Mr Emniyet, who started in his position at the college this year, said male teachers who breached the staff dress code - for example, by wearing shorts - would face the same three-strikes warning system as female teachers who did not adhere to the headscarf policy.

School board chairman Farouk Khan could not be contacted yesterday but the Independent Education Union and the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils said they were not aware of any change to the policy...

UK: Muslim channel says gays should be beaten and tortured for the ‘evil, shameful act’

Fringe Muslim television channels in the UK have been reprimanded for allowing extremists to say their views unchallenged, such as gay people should be tortured.

Regulatory watchdog OFCOM has found the stations broke the broadcasting code by allowing the extreme opinions to be aired.

In one case, a female presenter said homosexuals should be beaten and tortured for the ‘evil, shameful act’.

The Radio Asian Fever host, named ‘Sister Ruby Ramadan’ said: ‘Torture them; punish them; beat them and give them mental torture.’

Radio Asian Fever, based in Leeds, England, was fined £4000 ($6300, €4600) for allowing it to air.

Another broadcast by Noor TV was criticised by Ofcom for ‘serious breaches’, and highlighted how inflammatory talk can incite violence.

The show said: ‘There is absolutely no doubt about it that the punishment for the person who shows disrespect for the Prophet is death. No one disagrees about this.’

While the channels have small audiences compared with the mainstream, Ofcom said it does not matter when it comes to the breaching of broadcasting guidelines.

‘The majority of Islamic channels comply with our rules,’ an Ofcom spokesman said.

‘However, where we identify issues through our monitoring or complaints we investigate fully and take firm enforcement action.’...

Al-Jazeera TV host admits apostasy laws have kept Islam alive since the 1400s

Aides to former Democratic Vice President Al Gore have failed to respond to a recent Al-Jazeera TV broadcast, in which a top imam affirmed the death penalty for anyone who quits Islam.

Gore sold his Current TV network to Al-Jazeera, which now plans to extend its broadcast into the United States this summer, according to Ashok Sinha, vice president of corporate communications at Current TV/Al-Jazeera America.

Gore reportedly sold Current TV for $500 million and endorsed Al-Jazeera’s news programs.

Western critics of Islam highlighted a recent broadcast of the network’s regular “Shariah and Life” show, which has an estimated audience of 60 million viewers worldwide.

The show’s host is Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a prominent Sunni Islamic cleric.

He declared that Islam’s mandated death-penalty for apostasy has kept Islam alive since the 1400s. “If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment Islam wouldn’t exist today,” Qaradawi said on the show.

Qaradawi cited specific verses and narrations by Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, and the recorded testimony of his companions, that mandate the death penalty for anyone who tries to leave Islam.

“Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:33 says: ‘The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle is that they should be murdered or crucified,’” Qaradawi quoted on his show.

Kenya: Gunmen attack two Christian pastors in the city of Garissa; killing one and wounding the other

Two pastors in Kenya were shot Thursday morning by unknown gunmen who killed one of the men and wounded the other, according to a report from Open Doors, a Christian persecution watchdog.

Open Doors, who has ministry workers in the east Africa country, received information that Pastor Ibrahim Makunyi of the East Africa Pentecostal Church and Pastor Abdi Welli were attacked by the gunmen in the city of Garissa, Kenya. Welli was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital while Pastor Makunyi was immediately rushed to a hospital. Makunyi's condition was described as stable and out of danger.

Welli, who was evangelized, discipled and mentored by Makunyi, is survived by his wife Hellen and three young sons. Garissa is a violence-stricken city in northeastern Kenya. Al-Shabaab, an Islamist terrorist group, has been targeting Christians and Christian churches in the area, Open Doors stated. Last July, terrorists killed 16 people during bombings at two churches in Garissa.

"The attack today is the latest in increasing violence, especially in the Garissa area. It was reported by Open Doors that 22 Christians were killed in incidents last year and over 100 seriously injured or maimed," said Open Doors USA spokesman Jerry Dykstra.

Political instability in Kenya, triggered by influences from the Muslim minority group al-Shabaab, is causing great concern over the future religious atmosphere in the east Africa country, Open Doors recently stated. Even prior to the latest incident, the organization has been asking for prayer with less than one month to go before the country's general election...

Bangladesh: 20,000 Allahu Akbar shouting Muslims attack Ahmadi site, torch canopy, tents & stage

An Islamic sect whose members are seen as heretics by mainstream Muslims on Thursday shifted the site for its centenary celebrations in Bangladesh after thousands of religious rivals torched the original venue.

A mob, which witnesses said numbered around 20,000, attacked the venue at Kaliakoir, near Dhaka, late Wednesday where members of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat were due to mark 100 years since the movement began operating in what is now Bangladesh.

"They attacked the venue from all corners, shouting Allahu Akbar. They torched the canopy, tents and stage," Sanjit Kumar, a senior police official, told AFP.

"We fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the mob, but it was so huge that we could not protect the venue," he said, adding that one person was injured after he was beaten up.

Founded in 1889 in India, the Ahmadiyya differ with most Muslims by considering the movement's founder to be a messiah. Pakistan in 1974 adopted a law to brand the community as non-Muslims.

In Bangladesh, where 90 per cent of the country's 153 million people are Muslims, there is no such law. But Islamic parties and top clerics have long demanded the government declare them non-Muslims.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat's Bangladesh spokesman Tabshir Chowdhury alleged that despite repeated request for more security, only a few policemen were sent to protect the venue, situated 40km north of the capital.

"We got government approval for the three-day meet where 10,000 of our members, including 200 foreign guests, were invited," he told AFP.

"When we saw mob was building up and threatening to attack the venue, we asked for more security."

He said the venue for the celebrations had been shifted to the group's headquarters in Dhaka.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat has been the victim of several attacks in recent years, including last November when a Muslim mob in a northern district vandalised a mosque and torched several houses belonging to the sect members.
Bangladesh mob torches sect's festival site
Emirates 24/7, February 7, 2013

Afghanistan: Woman sentenced to 12 years for being raped, pardoned on condition she marry rapist

A year after she was pardoned from prison on the condition she agree to marry her rapist, a young Afghan woman, faced with distressingly few options, has now reluctantly wed her attacker.

In 2009, Gulnaz, then 16 years old, gained international attention after she was raped by her cousin’s husband and sentenced to 12 years in an Afghan prison for “forced adultery,” during which time she gave birth to a daughter fathered by her defiler.

Unfortunately, being imprisoned for having the temerity to be a victim of rape is not unusual in Afghanistan, evidenced by the fact that more than 50 percent of Afghanistan’s female prison population has been jailed for moral crimes, such as “forced adultery” or “zina” (extramarital sex).

Yet, nevertheless, after spending two and a half years in jail, Gulnaz was offered a pardon in December 2011 by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, albeit on the condition Gulnaz marry her rapist.

Karzai’s decision, however, wasn’t particularly surprising given that the Afghan police and judicial response to violence inflicted upon women — deeply rooted in Afghan custom and Islamic law — is to either ignore the crimes or, in most cases, send the women back to their abusers.

Still, Karzai’s decision engendered enough international and domestic outrage to prompt the Afghan president to graciously release Gulnaz without the precondition she wed her rapist.

Sadly for Gulnaz, presidential decree notwithstanding, her family was bent on having her marry her attacker, a decision based on the fact Gulnaz’s status as an unwed mother made her a social pariah who had brought shame upon her family.

In fact, reports surfaced that prior to her release Gulnaz’s brothers had threatened to kill her daughter, threats which prompted Gulnaz to seek sanctuary in a women’s shelter. There Gulnaz spent over a year while her family and the rapist’s family haggled over terms of the marriage.

Those marital conditions included a reported demand for the rapist’s family to give a daughter to Gulnaz’s family, part of the traditional Afghan practice known as “baad,” whereupon women are given away to pay family debts or settle disputes.

Unfortunately for Gulnaz, the Afghan government was reportedly tag teaming with her family to help persuade the young woman to go ahead with the marriage, persuasion which, according to Gulnaz’s lawyer, Kimberley Motely, included Gulnaz being “systematically brainwashed” by Afghan officials.

Moreover, Motely said Afghan officials were “repeatedly denying her documentation for an asylum application” for Gulnaz, making Gulnaz a virtual prisoner in the women’s shelter.

Unfortunately, given the traditional Afghan hostility toward allowing women the freedom to escape abusive male relatives and family members, women’s shelters in Afghanistan more often than not resemble prisons masquerading as sanctuaries.

To that end, the Afghan government requires that a woman can’t move out of a shelter, most of which are run by NGOs and the United Nations, unless she is going to the home of a male relative.

However, that rule can prove problematic if, as in many cases, those same male relatives have abused or threatened to kill the woman or girl in the first place, a fact which leads many Afghan women afraid to seek help from Afghan police and judicial authorities.

Moreover, the Afghan government has taken extra steps to ensure that women’s shelters are not seen as enticing options for women fleeing abusive homes and marriages. As the head of Afghanistan’s juvenile prisons has said, “People really hate it when girls run away.”

To that end, the Afghanistan Supreme Court in October 2010 ruled that any Afghan woman who fled her home and went anywhere other than to the police or a close relative would be locked up as a precaution against them having illicit sex or engaging in prostitution.

So for Gulnaz, the only unsavory options open to escape her torment entailed either a return to jail or forcible return home, unpalatable choices which led to her decision last week to leave the women’s shelter to go marry her rapist.

While some may question Gulnaz’s decision as one which will leave her still vulnerable to further abuse or worse from her new husband or her family, others are more pragmatic in their opinion.

One such person is filmmaker Clementine Malpas who first brought Gulnaz’s plight to world attention in a documentary she made aimed to shed light on Afghan women jailed for moral crimes.

Malpas said, “Marrying the man she told us had raped her isn’t what we had hoped for Gulnaz but the current cultural context of Afghanistan leaves very few options, especially for a woman with a child out of wedlock.”

To that end, Gulnaz reportedly made her choice in order to give her daughter hope for a better future. Specifically, Gulnaz’s little girl, having been born in prison, was considered to be illegitimate, a disgrace to her family and, as a consequence, never to be accepted by Afghan society unless her parents marry.

For Gulnaz and her little daughter, as well for as countless other Afghan women and girls mired in similar situations, acceptance back into the good graces of Afghan society can come at a terrible price.
Afghan Woman Forced to Marry Her Rapist
Front Page Magazine, February 7, 2013

Switzerland: Woman stabbed 29 times by husband over suspicion of an extramarital affair

In april 2011, the accused appeared in front of the regional tribunal of Jura Bernois Seeland A Bienne. The accused must respond to accusations of murder leading to assassination. The crime was committed in Bienne at the home of the victim that was living separately from the accused, a Moroccan immigrant.

A conjugal conflict is the origin of the drama that most likely took place in the presence of the child of the couple, a 3 year old girl. The man called the police and showed no resistance during his arrest.

The prosecutor, Cindy Maeder, has demanded a sentence that includes 12 years of imprisonment. During his hearing the attorney from the public ministry estimated that the accused had not committed an assassination but a murder. She estimates that this gesture had not been premeditated.

In front of the tribunal, the accused explained that two elements were the origins of his gesture. First, the fact that his wife had made it seem that he would lose his authorization to stay in Switzerland in case of divorce. Also, the announcement that she had found somebody that was supporting her financially, from which he deduced that she had a lover.

The weapon used for the crime, a kitchen knife of 18 cm’s long, (7.1″) was found at the crime scene. the accused admitted to these facts and faces an anticipated execution of his sentence, (if he gets only 4 years he will be free 2 years from now) his defence lawyer traded ‘passionate murder’ specifying that his client was under pressure by the victim until he exploded.

He has requested that the sentence does not exceed 4 years of custody. If the five judges of the tribunal have to maintain the murder charge, he expects that the sentence be limited to no more than 7 and 1/2 years of imprisonment. The verdict is expected Thursday Morning.

Tunisia: Opposition leader, critical of Islamist-led government & violence by devout Muslims, shot dead

A Tunisian opposition party leader who had been critical of the Islamist-led government and violence by radical Muslims has been shot dead, leading to anti-government riots that left downtown Tunis choked with teargas and patrolled by a tank and armoured cars.

Chokri Belaid, leader of the Unified Democratic Nationalist party, was shot outside his home in the capital by a man who fled on a motorcycle on Wednesday morning. He died in hospital shortly afterwards.

The president, Moncef Marzouki, responded by cutting short a visit to France and cancelling a trip to Egypt scheduled for Thursday, and Reuters reported on Wednesday night that he would dissolve the government and try to form a government of national unity.

The killing triggered a 1,000-strong protest outside the interior ministry. Police used teargas to disperse the protesters, who were gathered on the same broad, tree-lined boulevard where two years ago anti-government protests led to the fall of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia's longtime dictator.

The crowds even chanted the same slogan: "The people want the fall of the regime." As the police moved in people ran for the shelter of nearby buildings yelling: "No to Ennahda," and: "Ghannouchi assassin," referring to the moderate Islamist party and its leader, who dominate the elected government.

Tunis city centre was left deserted and littered with stones, guarded by police armoured vehicles and patrolled by a tank from the national guard. Knots of riot police chased protesters through the elegant streets downtown.

Elsewhere in the country, police responded to a protest in the coastal city of Sousse with teargas while Ennahda offices were attacked in several towns, according to Radio Mosaique and Radio Shems FM.

The prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, who heads the Ennahda-led government elected in 2011 in Tunisia's first post-Arab-spring election, said: "The murder of Belaid is a political assassination and the assassination of the Tunisian revolution. By killing him they wanted to silence his voice." ...
Tunisian opposition leader shot dead
The Guardian, February 6, 2013

France: Another manufactured hate-crime? Mosque vandalized with swastikas, investigators suspect Muslims

See this page for similar hoaxes. For example, the burning of Masjid Al-Hedaya (Islamic Center of Marietta) was thought to have been a hate crime against Muslims. However, a self-described devout Muslim immigrant was eventually charged with first-degree arson for setting it alight.

Vandals have targeted a French mosque in a graffiti attack, tagging the worship center with swastikas and anti-Islam slogans, officials said earlier today.

The attack was discovered by worshippers arriving for morning prayers at the mosque in Ozoir-La-Ferriere, a small town 35 kilometers east of Paris.

Photographs of the mosque show at least two swastikas painted on the facade, as well as an explicit anti-Islam slogan and "Long Live Gaul," the ancient Roman-era name for France. Police were investigating the incident.

In the eastern city of Besançon, two mosques were also vandalized with a Star of David – commonly used by the Nazis to identify Jews.

Sources close to the inquiry, however, cautioned that the vandalism was not necessarily triggered by anti-Islam sentiment and said investigators were looking at several leads, including whether it was carried out by an unhappy worshipper.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls condemned the attacks "with the utmost severity" and called them "foul and hateful." According to statistics from an Islamic monitoring organization, 201 anti-Islam attacks were recorded in France last year, up 28 percent on 2011.
French mosque vandalized with anti-Islam graffiti
Agence France-Presse, February 5, 2013

Turkey: Parliament accepts petition to convert the Hagia Sophia into a place of worship for Muslims

In a surpise move, a commission of the Turkish Parliament last week accepted a petition from a Turkish citizen to reopen the Hagia Sophia as a place of worship for Muslims.

The center of Orthodox worship in the Eastern Roman Empire for over a thousand years (360 – 1453), the Church of the Holy Wisdom, more commonly known by its Greek name Hagia Sophia, has been a museum since 1935 and draws millions of visitors every year. After the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, it became the first imperial mosque of the Ottoman Empire, and the call to prayer sounded from its minarets for almost 500 years.

The decision by Atatürk’s government to designate the building as a museum was an obvious attempt at reconciliation between the Turks and Greeks, who had been feuding for centuries.

The fact that the Turkish Parliament would consider opening the building for use as a mosque may reopen old wounds. The former church still prominently features six gigantic green medallions with the names of Allah, the Prophet, and Islam’s first four caliphs.

Conservative groups in Turkey, such as the Anatolia Youth Association, have been conducting campaigns to have the structure rededicated to Islamic worship. It’s conversion to a museum has long been viewed as a betrayal of the Ottoman Empire by Muslim groups.

One such group conducted a survey in the Turkish city of Kocaeli, just east of Istanbul, and found that 97.8% of the respondents supported reopening the Hagia Sophia as a mosque. This survey was also submitted to Parliament. In the following days, the Parliamentary Petition Commission received 15 more petitions asking that the structure be redesignated as a mosque.

The decision by the parliamentary commission caused an explosion on social media like Twitter. A twitter account called Islamic Brotherhood tweeted, “We want to do our prayers in the Hagia Sophia!” The tweet had a link to a picture of the building and a caption that read, “We don’t need a ticket to enter; our ritual washing should be enough to get us in.”

Another person said, “Oh Hagia Sophia, how You must miss the call to prayer and we miss performing our prayers inside You.”

These calls for the former church to be reopened as a mosque echo statements made last year by Bulent Arinc, the 22nd House Speaker of the Turkish Parliament, about a church in Trabzon that, like the Hagia Sophia, had served as a mosque before being converted to a museum.

“The Hagia Sophia Mosque in Trabzon has, unfortunately and for no good reason, been used as a museum until now. This sort of thing won’t happen as long as we are in power. Mosques are for worshipping Allah. No law can ever change its original purpose. If Allah is willing, we will all together reopen the Trabzon Hagia Sophia as soon as possible. If Allah is willing, we will go to Trabzon. We will line up for prayer and say ‘Allahu Ekber’ in the mosque of our ancestors.”

The neo-Ottoman aspriations of Islamist politicans like Arınç are no secret. Statements like the preceeding are standard fare in Turkey’s cultural war.

Bangladesh: Court sentences senior Jamaat-e-Islami member to life in prison for crimes against humanity during the 1971 war

Abdul Quader Molla, 64, the fourth highest ranked leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, is the first politician to be found guilty by the International Crimes Tribunal, a much-criticised domestic court based in Dhaka.

Molla cried “Allahu Akbar” (God is greater) and said all the charges were false after the presiding judge Obaidul Hassan delivered the verdict in a crowded court, blanketed with heavy security.

The judgement sparked protests by Jamaat, the country’s largest Islamic party which enforced a nationwide strike Tuesday in anticipation of the conviction. It warned it would resist “at any cost a government blueprint” to execute its leaders.

“He deserved death sentence because of the gravity of the crimes. But the judge gave him life imprisonment,” Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said, adding Molla “had directly participated” in the killing of more than 350 people near Dhaka.

The verdict is the second to have been handed down by the tribunal. On January 21 a top TV preacher, an ex-Jamaat official, was sentenced to death in absentia for murder and genocide.

The judge in Molla’s case refused a prosecution bid to try him for genocide.

Molla’s lawyer Nazim Momen said they would appeal the verdict as it was “politically motivated”.

Ten other opposition figures — including the entire leadership of Jamaat and two from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) — stand accused of war crimes...

Pakistan: Christian shot five times for refusing to convert to Islam, police refuse to register complaints

Younas Masih died this afternoon after he was shot five times last Thursday as he made his way home. An unknown gunman fired at the 55-year-old Christian man. From the beginning, his conditions appeared critical. It is believed he was attacked after he resisted pressures from co-workers to convert to Islam.

Masih worked for a company in Chaman. His friends describe him as honest and reliable. Strong in his Christian faith, he was regularly involved in his local parish.

Speaking anonymously, local sources told AsiaNews that Muslim co-workers had began pressuring him to convert, which he rejected, standing firm in his beliefs in Christ.

Despite the fact that people were talking behind his back and had made repeated threats against him, he continued to work for the same company and stood firm against pressures and attempts at blackmail.

Last Thursday, his co-workers tried again, asking him to convert. A heated discussion followed that included insults and threats. When he went home Masih was attacked by a gunman who fired five bullets into him.

After he was rushed to a hospital, his conditions appeared critical from the start. Doctors removed the bullets and had him moved into the intensive care unit where he eventually died.

His son tried to file a First Information Report (FIR) with local police who refused to register his complaint. Despite repeated attempts, they refused to heed the family's pleas for justice. Devastated by his death, the family now feels abandoned by the authorities.

Groups like the Masihi Foundation and Life for All quickly condemned the murder. Acting on behalf of the family, they expressed their dismay at the lack of action by police and local authorities,.

For Fr James Chand, a priest in Quetta, killing a man for his faith is a "tragedy that that breaks one's heart."

Speaking to AsiaNews, he confirmed that Younas Masih had been repeatedly threatened, adding that "the behaviour of the concerned authorities was even more devastating."

"We demand protection for the lives and property of minorities in Pakistan," the clergyman said. "The authorities must ensure and safeguard the basic rights of minorities and protect them from hatred and violence."

Kenya: Suicide bomber killed after bomb explodes before he can reach his target, several injured

Nairobi, Feb 3 - A suicide bomber was killed in Kenya after the bomb he was carrying exploded before he could reach his target. The explosion, which injured several by-standers, occurred in Wajir late on Saturday evening. "The bomber was presumably headed towards his target, but didn't make it", reported an anonymous source in the security forces. The area targeted is mainly inhabited by Somalians

Saudi Arabia: Cleric calls for babies to wear burkas to protect them from being sexually exploited

A Saudi cleric has called for all female babies to be fully covered by wearing the face veil, commonly known as the burka, citing reports of little girls being sexually molested.

In a TV interview on the Islamic al-Majd TV, which seems to date back to mid-last year, Sheikh Abdullah Daoud, stressed that wearing the veil will protect baby girls. The Sheikh tried to back his assertion with claims of sexual molestation against babies in the kingdom, quoting unnamed medical and security sources.

Recently picked up on social media, Sheikh Dauod’s statement prompted wide condemnation from his fellow Saudis on Twitter. Some tweeps called for the Sheikh to be held accountable because his ruling denigrates Islam and breaches individual privacy.

Sheikh Mohammad al-Jzlana, former judge at the Saudi Board of Grievances, told Al Arabiya that Dauod’s ruling was denigrating to Islam and Shariah and made Islam look bad.

Jzlana urged people to ignore unregulated fatwas and explained that there are special regulations set by the Saudi authorities to administer religious edicts and appoint those who are entitled to issue them.

He said that he feels sad whenever he sees a family walking around with a veiled baby, describing that as injustice to children.

Saudi Arabia: Islamic law allows preacher to get a fine and short jail term for raping and killing daughter

Public anger has gripped Saudi Arabia after a prominent preacher who raped and beat to death his 5-year-old daughter was sentenced to a few months in jail and a $50,000 fine – known as 'blood money' – to compensate the victim's relatives.

According to Islamic law, the 'blood money' can be paid in lieu of the death penalty. The preacher's fine was reportedly half the usual amount because the victim was a girl.

Saudi preacher Fayhan Ghamdi, a frequent guest on Muslim TV networks, confessed to using cables and a cane to inflict the injuries, AFP reported, quoting activists from the group ‘Women to Drive.’

Ghamdi reportedly doubted that his daughter, Lama Ghamdi, was a virgin, and forced her to undergo a medical inspection.

In December 2011, Lama was admitted to hospital with multiple injuries, including a crushed skull, broken ribs and left arm, and extensive bruising and burns, according to the activist group. Hospital worker Randa Kaleeb said that the girl's back was broken, and that she had been raped "everywhere."

The hospital told the victim's mother that her child's “rectum had been torn open and the abuser had attempted to burn it closed,” AFP reported on Saturday.

In October 2012, the girl died from her injuries. The following November, the father was arrested. The judge ruled that the "blood money and the time the defendant had served in prison since Lama's death suffices as punishment," activists reported.

The incident sparked public anger in Saudi Arabia, prompting an online Twitter campaign calling for more severe punishment for violence against women and children. The 'Women to Drive' campaign, launched by women's rights activist Manal Sharif, has demanded the creation of legislation that would criminalize violence against women and children.

The petition is circulating on Twitter under the hashtag 'Ana Lama' – "I am Lama" in Arabic.

The issue has gained widespread traction in Saudi Arabia, and authorities promised to set up a 24-hour hotline that will take calls regarding child abuse.

UK: Traces of pork DNA found in halal prison meat, Muslim criminals offended and distressed

The Ministry of Justice is to suspend a firm supplying meat to prisons after tests found that it may have provided pies and pasties described as halal - but with traces of pork DNA.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said the local authority involved was investigating, while the MoJ said the products have been withdrawn.

Justice minister Jeremy Wright said the incident was "absolutely unacceptable".

Under Islamic law, Muslims are strictly forbidden to eat pork.

In a statement, Mr Wright said the Prison Service was investigating the incident "as a matter of urgency".

"This is an absolutely unacceptable situation and one which we regret greatly.

"Clearly this must be distressing for those affected and they can be reassured we are doing everything we can to resolve the situation."

Steve Wearne, an FSA director, said it had called an urgent meeting "of a range of suppliers" on Monday where it would "stress again the responsibility of all food businesses to ensure the food that they sell contains what it says on the label".

The MoJ said it had commissioned tests after the "recent high profile incidents" in which beefburgers sold by some supermarket chains were found to contain horsemeat.
. . .
Halal rules Under Islamic law, the eating of pork is strictly prohibited for Muslims, as is the consumption of meat which has not been slaughtered in the correct way.

Halal meat is defined as meat slaughtered by hand and blessed by the person doing the killing, however some Muslims believe a mechanised form is also now acceptable.

Earlier Food and farming minister David Heath said people "have a right to expect that the food they are eating is correctly described" and that he wanted a meeting with retailers and suppliers next week to "get to the bottom of this completely unacceptable situation."

Editor of the Muslim News, Ahmed Versi, said: "This is very serious because no Muslim would ever eat pork meat - anything to do with pork - and it must be very distressing for those in prison who have been given this meat to realise they may have been eating food which was contaminated with pig."
. . .

Libya: Muslim extremists chase nuns out of Libya, monastery closed because of threats

"Islamic extremists threatened us to leave, not the Libyan people, who instead protected us by coming to visit every day until our departure", Sister Celeste Biasolo, former superior of the convent of the Holy Family of Spoleto in Derna tells AsiaNews. In October she was forced to leave Libya with four other sisters, because of the spread of Islamic extremists in Cyrenaica. The situation described by the religious is also confirmed by Msgr. Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, who recently pointed out that two other religious communities will leave Cyrenaica after having been threatened by Islamists: the Franciscan Sisters of the Infant Jesus of Barce and the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Beida.

Sister Celeste Biasolo describes a climate of fear in Cyrenaica, which is especially affecting the Libyan people: "The same Muslim population is being terrorized by this situation. The people of Derna miss us and often contact us imploring us to come back. At Christmas more than 100 families called to our monastery in Spoleto with greetings for us". "In Cyrenaica - she explains - the Islamists do not want to attack the Church as such, but the West, and unfortunately we are seen as foreigners. This is because the country is without a government and can not even guarantee the security of its citizens".

The presence of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Spoleto in Libya dates back to 1921. The founder of the Institute, Blessed Peter Bonilli, wanted to open a mission in Cyrenaica, in the city of Derna. Sister Celeste notes that until their departure, the mission of the religious and the Church in Libya has focused primarily on health care and care for the elderly. "In these years - she says - we have tried to show joy of his own life of Christians and the Gospel through our presence and humanitarian work." According to the religious this struck the Muslim population who continue to consider the sisters a fundamental part of their community.

France: Catholic school principal receives torrent of abuse because teacher gave a history lesson on Islam

Christelle Lainet – headteacher of the Notre Dame primary school in Saint-Mihiel, a town in the north-east of France, was bombarded with threats after reports of the lesson were placed on an anti-Islam website.The site also published the school’s address and phone number, and Lainet’s email address.

“My mailbox has been inundated with 300 letters, and the school telephone hasn’t stopped ringing,” the headteacher told Europe 1 radio.

“I’ve been the target of some very violent and insulting mail,” said the principal, who said she felt “frightened.”

The hate-mail was in response to a lesson given last December when a teacher distributed hand-outs on the origins and history of Islam. One of the pages contained a ‘surah’ (verse) from the Islamic holy book the Koran, “by way of illustration”, regional daily La Républicain Lorrain reported.

Some parents were offended, however, and registered their unhappiness with Lainet. On January 9th, one child’s mother, who held “extremely racist views” had a heated exchange with the principal in the school yard.

Two days later, the same student’s father asked that his child be allowed to leave the history class without punishment, a request that Lainet agreed to.

On January 29th, however, the French website ‘Islamisme’ – which describes its goal as “to defend our freedom of expression and our values” – published a damning account of the history lesson, accusing the school of “poisoning” the children with “Muslim propaganda.”

A more specific claim made by the extremist site was that the student who was excused from the history class, was subsequently sent to the principal’s office to be punished.

The outraged headteacher, who apparently has the support of most parents at the school as well as the governors, responded this week by filing a complaint of defamation against the website.

For its part, the ‘Islamisme’ website responded to the French media outcry by stipulating “we called for a reaction, not intimidation,” and has denounced Lainet’s defamation complaint as “futile.”
Headteacher abused over lesson on Islam
The Local, February 1, 2013

US: Somali-American man guilty in Oregon Christmas bomb plot, defense lawyers plan to appeal

A Somali-American man was found guilty on Thursday of trying to blow up a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in Oregon using a fake bomb supplied to him by undercover agents posing as Islamist militants, the public defender's office said.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen and former Oregon State University student, faces a possible life prison term on his conviction on a single charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Sentencing is set for May 14.

Mohamud was arrested shortly after attempting to use his cell phone to remotely detonate an artificial car bomb planted near a Portland square crowded with thousands of people attending the ceremony the day after Thanksgiving in 2010.

No one was hurt, and authorities say the public was never in real danger.

During a three-week trial in U.S. District Court in Portland, defense attorneys argued that overzealous law enforcement officers posing as al Qaeda militants invented a crime and entrapped their client.

But the jury agreed with the prosecution's argument that Mohamud, 19 years old at the time of the crime, was already radicalized and could have backed out of the bomb plot at any point.

On the morning of the planned bombing, Mohamud reportedly told a friend that it was "the greatest morning of my life." Hours later, he dialed a cell phone that he thought would trigger the bomb and kill thousands of people.

"Mr. Mohamud made a series of choices over a period of several years - choices that were leading him down a path that would have ended in violence," Greg Fowler, the FBI's special agent in charge of the Portland division, said in a statement.

"His actions showed little regard for the rights and responsibilities that come with being an American or respect for the lives that he was prepared to take," he added. . .


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