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Islamic World News ( 4 Feb 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Indonesia's controversial Obama statue to be moved

Muslim girl sings Hindu devotional songs in Kerala temples

South African Draft bill recognises Muslim marriages

Karachi: Pakistan double bombing kills Shia Muslims

Pushto Press Peace in Karachi

Taliban to execute US soldier if Aafia not released

Kashmir jihad back in open

Experts pitch for interest-free Islamic banking

Who’s who of terror meet in PoK, vow jihad

TH ATM, CDM At Bank Islam, Bank Rakyat To Close Until Tomorrow

Cyber war threat

Minister defends blasphemy law

Singapore's Muslim Congregation Prays For Kelantan Sultan's Early Recovery

Bombings hit Iraq Shia pilgrims in Karbala

Indonesia clerics horrified over film on menstruating ghost

Ex-MLA gave me shelter: Delhi bomber

Chechnya militants kill five Russian soldiers

AMU’s Bihar campus to buzz from July-Aug

Al-Qaida tag used to strike terror

India asks, Pak agrees to secy-level talks

Blast puts focus on US troops in Pak

We want ‘all-encompassing’ talks: Pakistan

Hizbul chief ready for talks

Ahmadinejad signals wish for atom deal: Envoy

US supports reintegration efforts of Karzai

India, Bangladesh to fight terror together

India-Pakistan conflict a dilemma for US

Hearing in two cases against Zardari put off

Iran tells Gulf US missiles could be made useless

Man arrested after attacks on Muslim graves.

In spite of numbers, Dutch Muslim are political non-entity

Germany's Very Own Minaret Debate Turns Nasty

Sonia approved Azamgarh trip: Digvijay

Terrorism between the covers

Mixed Views of Hamas and Hezbollah in Largely Muslim Nations

Nuclear fuel deal: Another turnaround in Teheran

Thousands rally for Kashmir in Pakistan

Blame game on in Kashmir

Kashmir settlement urged for durable peace

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL of this page: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/indonesia-s-controversial-obama-statue-to-be-moved/d/2450

 

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Indonesia's controversial Obama statue to be moved

By KRISTEN GELINEAU

February 5, 2010

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- A statue of a young President Barack Obama that drew a public backlash after it was given a prominent position in a Jakarta park will be moved to the elementary school he attended while living in the Indonesian capital, officials said Friday.

The decision by Jakarta's government to move the 43-inch (110-centimeter) statue of a 10-year-old Obama holding a butterfly comes as the president prepares for his March visit to Indonesia, where he lived for several years as a child.

Despite his widespread popularity among Indonesians, the statue drew criticism after it was placed in a park in December, with protesters arguing Obama is not a national hero. More than 56,000 Facebook members joined the Indonesian-language Facebook group "Take Down the Barack Obama Statue in Taman Menteng Park."

On Friday, Jakarta Gov. Fauzi Bowo was quoted by the Detik.com news Web site as saying he "agreed with the suggestions" of those who wanted the statue moved from such a public area.

Nur Rochman, a city government spokesman, confirmed officials had ordered the relocation of the statue, and hoped to have it installed at the school before Obama's arrival.

"I think that is the most appropriate place for his statue," he said.

Heru Nugroho, founder of the Facebook campaign to remove the statue from the park, praised the decision.

"It's good - a little too late," he said. "But I appreciate it."

Nugroho said he doesn't hate Obama or the United States, but believes statues in Indonesia should be reserved for those who have made significant contributions to the country.

"Obama is a very good man, he's a good dreamer," Nugroho said. "But he has no contribution for Indonesia."

Ron Mullers, a Jakarta resident who came up with the idea of the statue and raised money for it, said the new location is more personal for Obama, and closer to the children of Indonesia, for whom it was made.

"If the government would like to move it, well, that's their prerogative and we have no objection," said Mullers, the chairman of the nonprofit Friends of Obama Foundation. "I think less people will see it, but that's OK."

Obama, whose mother married an Indonesian, went to elementary school in the capital from 1967 to 1971 and is regarded fondly by most Indonesians. The nation is home to the world's largest Muslim population and many here believe Obama will improve relations between the West and the Middle East.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/05/AR2010020500806.html

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Muslim girl sings Hindu devotional songs in Kerala temples

Fri, 05 Feb 2010

Malappuram (Kerala), Feb 5 (ANI): Hana Yasir, a Muslim girl from the hamlets of Malappuram district in Kerala is an expert in singing Hindu devotional songs in temples across Kerala.

Recently at the Lord Vishnu temple near Malappuram the authorities organised a concert by Hana Yasir on singing special devotional songs not only for the Hindu devotees but to spread communal harmony among the Hindu, Muslim and religion devotees in the village.

The special concert inside the compound of the Kulatharakadu Vishnu Bhagawathy temple was decided by all the temple functionaries as a function in between their annual festival last week was organised mainly to propagate communal harmony among the villagers.

The 13- year-old, a child prodigy, was inspired by the famed singer

Yesudas. Once he asked her to go for classical style singing practices after hearing her voice during a singing competition.

In the beginning Hana started singing in Hindu devotional songs in temples but later she attempted to perform various religion songs in churches and mosques festivals.

According to Hana it gives her great pleasure and every time people, especially Hindu devotees appreciate her singing and provide other support for her performance.

It was her dream to be a classical singer as she feels that there are hardly any Muslim girls who practices this age old Indian style of songs. By Juhan SamuelANI)

http://www.newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/147286

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South African Draft bill recognises Muslim marriages

By Fatima Schroeder

February 05 2010

Ten years after the government first set up a project committee to address the inequities suffered at the hands of the law by millions of South Africans married according to Muslim rites, Parliament is gearing up to act.

The long-awaited draft Muslim Marriages Bill will be debated in the legislature in the early part of the year, bringing the prospect of recognition before the law, finally, to nearly 10 percent of South Africans.

In the current environment, though courts have established precedent judgments to soften the force of existing statutes, people married by Muslim rites are not considered before the law to be married at all, and children born out of such unions continue to be regarded as illegitimate.

If Muslims - like people married in terms of African custom - want to "legitimise" their unions, they have to conduct a separate civil ceremony, effectively marrying again.

But this option is not available to South Africans in polygamous unions, as the law makes no provision for multiple spouses.

Nearly all Muslim clerics have declined to register as official marriage officers.

Justice Ministry spokesman Tlali Tlali said the Muslim Marriages Bill was one of the "priority 2010 bills", and said it was expected to be "presented to cabinet and tabled before Parliament during the course of the first semester".

That the draft bill was on the legislative programme for the year was also confirmed to the Women's Legal Centre (WLC) by the senior state law adviser, said the centre's Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker.

Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) deputy president Sheikh Achmat Sedick said the move indicated that the government was now serious about dealing with the issue instead of merely "looking into the matter".

The tabling of the bill comes more than 15 years after the Muslim community appealed to then-president Nelson Mandela to give recognition to Muslim marriages.

The issue was finally taken up by former justice minister Dullah Omar in 1999, with the appointment of a project committee, under the auspices of the SA Law Reform Commission, to look at ways of developing a better fit between Sharia law and the South African legislative framework.

The committee included legal professionals, women and Muslim scholars trained in Muslim family law.

By 2001 a discussion paper had been drawn up and written submissions solicited.

Much resistance was encountered within the Muslim community itself, Sheikh Sedick said.

Some organisations said the bill was kufr (heretic) and called those who supported it satanic sell-outs.

Finally, in July 2003 a report was submitted by the SA Law Reform Commission as the basis for a draft bill.

It was only in 2008, with the appointment of another Muslim, Enver Surty, as Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Minister, that sustained attention was given to the drafting of the bill.

The essence of the draft legislation is to establish a framework wherein people married by Muslim rites record their marriages on a civil register - and thereby enter into a separate contract with the state in which the state in partnership with Muslim authority guarantees and mediates constitutional rights.

The guiding principle is to separate and to keep sacrosanct the different roles of religious and state authority in regulating Muslim marriage within South African society.

It is particularly geared to protect and entrench the constitutional rights of women. But, if passed, the bill will draw the line under a host of legal anomalies, among them:

That the children of parents married by Muslim rites are still recorded as being born out of wedlock;

That the Department of Home Affairs continues to generate death certificates for Muslims indicating that they were "never married" even though they had been married in accordance with Muslim family law for decades;

That the failure of the law to accommodate their matrimonial unions leaves women without legal protection on the death of their husbands.

Abrahams-Fayker said the WLC was positive about moves to track the Bill through parliament, but warned that the process could still be lengthy.

"It's a start. It doesn't mean that legislation will be passed immediately," she said.

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=139&art_id=vn20100205132944364C391289

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Karachi: Pakistan double bombing kills Shia Muslims

5 February 2010

Two bombs in the Pakistani city of Karachi have killed at least 22 people and injured more than 50.

In the first blast, a motorbike laden with explosives hit a bus carrying Shia Muslims to a religious procession and exploded, killing 12 people.

An hour later, a motorcycle exploded outside the entrance to the emergency ward of the hospital where the victims of the first attack were being treated.

At least 10 people were killed in the second attack.

The bombings happened in spite of tight security across Pakistan.

Forty days ago, during the last major Shia festival, a suicide bomber killed 25 worshippers in the city.

Shia Muslims are marking the end of the Arbaeen religious festival, with Friday being the final and most important day of 40 days of mourning for the Prophet Muhammad's grandson.

Also on Friday, at least 27 Shia Muslims were killed in the Iraqi city of Karbala as they took part in a major Arbaeen event.

Approximately a million Shia Muslim pilgrims are in Karbala to visit the Imam Hussein shrine at the end of commemorations.

In Karachi, the first attack took place on a commercial street near the main Sharah-e-Faisal road connecting Karachi airport with the city.

The bus that came under attack was one of dozens used to transport Shia pilgrims from all over the city to a central procession.

It was not clear whether the motorcycle bomb was rammed into the bus by a suicide bomber or was parked by the side of the road.

The attack injured about 50 people, who were taken to Jinnah hospital.

About an hour later there was a large blast just outside the emergency ward of the hospital.

Sectarian tension between the Shia minority and the Sunni majority rose after the December attack, and riots erupted.

Tension remains high, and paramilitary troops were deployed in the city days ago amid deadly clashes between rival political groups.

The Shia-Sunni schism originates from a dispute soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad over who should lead the Muslims.

Sunnis remain the majority globally, with Shias estimated to number about 10% of all Muslims.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8500077.stm

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Pushto Press Peace in Karachi

February 5, 2010

INTERIOR Minister Rehman Malik has said that Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden are not in Pakistan, describing reports of Mullah Omar’s presence in Karachi and Quetta as “wishful fairytales”. He revealed that Al Qaeda dens in Pakistan have been eradicated and that the government was keeping a very close eye on all developments in the region. In Karachi, acting on a tip-off the police’s Crime Investigation Department raided a house in the Manghopir area where Taliban commander Abdul Tawab, who used to operate in Malakand division, was arrested. Tawab was in the top cadre of Taliban leaders in Malakand and sought shelter in Karachi.

Meanwhile, following widespread political strife in Karachi, target killings in the city are escalating by the day and the metropolis has witnessed a flare-up in violence over the last few days. At least nine people have been shot dead and many others injured.

The streets of Qasba Colony, Liaquatabad, Muslim Colony and Orangi Town in Karachi are echoing with gunfire as citizens face turmoil. The Sindh chief minister has taken notice of the situation and ordered an operation. Meanwhile, the provincial head of police, Syed Salahuddin Khattak, told a private television channel that his force is ready to tackle any kind of situation and that there was a heavy police presence in the strife-torn localities of the city. However, he also hinted at seeking help from the Rangers. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party have both claimed that they have lost many activists in the current spate of violence and these losses continue to rise.

The Sindh police chief has associated the ongoing killings in Orangi Town with the political divide in Karachi. Undeniably, the situation in Karachi remains worrisome. As the international community keeps a tight focus on the beleaguered city following reports of the presence of senior Taliban and Al Qaeda commanders, political tensions hold it hostage to violence and chaos. We hope that the government will soon take stringent steps to bring this sad situation under control. — (Feb 1)

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/other-voices-pushto-press-peace-in-karachi-520

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Taliban to execute US soldier if Aafia not released

By Mushtaq Yusufzai

February 5, 2010

PESHAWAR: The Afghan Taliban on Thursday demanded the release of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist who has been convicted by the US court on charges of her alleged attempt to murder US soldiers in Afghanistan, and threatened to execute an American soldier they were holding currently. They claimed Aafia Siddiqui’s family had approached the Taliban network through a Jirga of notables, seeking their assistance to put pressure on the US to provide her justice.

“Being Muslims, it becomes our religious and moral obligation to help the distressed Pakistani woman convicted by the US court on false charges,” said a senior Afghan Taliban commander. The commander, whose militant network is holding the US soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, called The News from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan and threatened to execute the American trooper if their demand was not met. He claimed AafiaSiddiqui’s family had approached the Taliban network through a Jirga of notables, seeking their assistance to put pressure on the US to provide her justice.

“We tried our best to make the family understand that our role may create more troubles for the hapless woman, who was already in trouble. On their persistent requests, we have now decided to include Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s name in the list of our prisoners in US custody that we delivered to Americans in Afghanistan for swap of their soldier in our custody,” explained the militant commander.

He claimed family members of Dr Aafia told the Taliban leadership that they had lost all hopes in the Pakistan government and now Allah Almighty and the Taliban were their only hope. Later, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also called The News from somewhere in Afghanistan and owned a statement given by the Taliban commander.

The militant commander alleged that the US soldier, whom his fighters kidnapped from Afghanistan’s Paktika province near the border with Pakistan’s troubled South Waziristan in June 2009, had admitted his involvement in several raids in Afghanistan. “Since he has confessed to all charges against him, our Islamic court had announced death sentence for him,” the Taliban leader claimed.

The same Taliban faction released a video of the captive US soldier on Christmas Day. Taliban said they had been shifting the soldier all the time due to the search operations by the US and Afghan forces. He said the only way Americans could save life of their soldier was to release 21 Afghan prisoners and the “innocent” Pakistani lady.

Most of their prisoners, he claimed, were being held at the Guantanamo prison. “We believe that like the Israelis, the Americans would be ready soon to do any deal for taking possession of the remains of their soldier, but it would be late by then,” he stressed. Dr Aafia’s family could not be approached for comments on the Taliban claim.

http://thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=27072

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Kashmir jihad back in open

Islamabad, February 05, 2010

Even as India offered to resume dialogue with Pakistan,  a meeting of radical and militant groups organised by the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) on Thursday vowed to press holy war for “independence” of Kashmir.

They also called for moral support from Pakistan.

A declaration unanimously adopted at Kashmir Solidarity conference organised by the JuD in PoK capital Muzaffarabad said the region’s status as a “base camp” for militant groups should be restored and the ban on Kashmiri jehadi groups should be lifted.

“If the rulers cannot help the Kashmiris, they should open the field for Kashmiri mujahideen instead of creating hurdles. They (mujahideen) will deal with India,” said the declaration issued in Urdu.

The meeting was the first major public event organised by the JuD since the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

“The rulers (of Pakistan) must desist from becoming part of international conspiracies to project the American agenda on Kashmir. The Kashmiri nation will continue its freedom movement with full force despite all conspiracies,” it said.

The radical groups also pledged to foil any effort aimed at forging a “friendship treaty and trade with India”.

The meet was addressed by Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin, Al-Badr leader Bakht Zamin, United Jehad Council general secretary Sheikh Jamilur Rehman, senior JuD leaders Abdul Aziz Alvi and Abdur Rehman Makki and former Inter-Services Intelligence agency chief Hamid Gul, JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid said.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/pakistan/Kashmir-jihad-back-in-open/Article1-505417.aspx

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Experts pitch for interest-free Islamic banking

February 5, 2010

New Delhi: With the global financial crisis putting the spotlight on “casino capitalism” of the West, leading scholars and experts from the Arab world yesterday pitched for interest-free Islamic banking in India, home to the world’s third largest Muslim population.

Tracing the genesis of the global meltdown to “greed and unscrupulousness” of financiers and speculators in the West, Umar Chapra, adviser Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah, said the crisis resulted from “excessive and imprudent lending.”

“Islamic finance puts emphasis on equity and justice. Islam discourages debt and the charging of interest on debt,” Chapra said at an India-Arab conference, organized by the Indo-Arab Economic Cooperation Forum and Institute of Objective Studies, at the India Islamic Culture Centre..

Chapra stressed that under the Islamic system, financial capital is deployed for creating development in society and is consistent with the principles of Islamic law (Shariah) which prohibits the payment or acceptance of interest for the lending and accepting of money respectively.

Pitching for Islamic banking in India, Abdul Azim Islahi of Islamic Economics Centre, King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, pointed out that some of the earliest research on Islamic banking came from scholars at Osmania University in Hyderabad and Allahabad University in Uttar Pradesh.

Agreed Monzer Kahf, consultant of Islamic Banking and Finance in Qatar. “Islamic finance is not Islamic; it belongs to all of humanity,” he said.

India is keen to attract investment from oil-rich Gulf countries in its burgeoning infrastructure sector and is, therefore, looking afresh at proposals for introducing Islamic financial services in the country.

Full report at: http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/Display_news.asp?section=World_News&subsection=India&month=February2010&file=World_News2010020582326.xml

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Who’s who of terror meet in PoK, vow jihad

5 February 2010

NEW DELHI: The announcement that India has proposed talks with Pakistan ironically came on a day that saw a massive show of strength by proscribed terror groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, in Muzaffarabad to galvanize the ``freedom movement'' in Jammu and Kashmir.

If there was any enthusiasm over US director of national intelligence Dennis Blair's statement before the Senate that Pakistan looked upon these groups as strategic assets against India, it was quickly wiped off by the terror rally which was addressed by terrorists wanted in India.

``Islamabad's conviction that militant groups are an important part of its strategic arsenal to counter India's military and economic advantages will continue to limit Pakistan's incentive to pursue an across-the-board effort against extremism," Blair told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. ``Islamabad's strategic approach risks helping al-Qaida sustain its safe haven because some groups supported by Pakistan provide assistance to al- Qaida," he said, adding that Pakistan believes that it does not need to confront groups that do not threaten it directly.

Full report at:  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Whos-who-of-terror-meet-in-PoK-vow-jihad/articleshow/5536792.cms

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TH ATM, CDM At Bank Islam, Bank Rakyat To Close Until Tomorrow

February 5, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR -- The Tabung Haji (TH) automated teller machines (ATM) and cash-deposit machines (CDM) at the Bank Islam Berhad and Bank Kerjasama Malaysia will be closed from 6pm Friday until 11am Saturday.

Operation of the machines at the two banks has been closed due to the process of crediting bonus payments to depositors, TH said in a statement Friday.

TH apologised to its depositors for the inconvenience.

http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsgeneral.php?id=473799

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Cyber war threat

By Simon Tisdall

February 5, 2010

CYBER warfare attacks on military infrastructure, government and private communications systems, and financial markets pose a rapidly growing but little understood threat to international security and could become a decisive weapon in future conflicts between states, the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London has warned.

The institute’s director-general, John Chipman, said: “Despite evidence of cyber attacks in recent political conflicts, there is little appreciation internationally of how to assess cyber conflict. We are now, in relation to the problem of cyber warfare, at the same stage of intellectual development as we were in the 1950s in relation to possible nuclear war.”

The warning accompanied publication of the Military Balance 2010, the institute’s annual assessment of global military capabilities and defence economics. The study also highlighted a series of other security threats, including the war in Afghanistan, China’s military diversification, the progress of Iran’s nuclear programme, and the impact of terrorist groups in Iraq and elsewhere.

Full report at:  http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/cyber-war-threat-520

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Minister defends blasphemy law

February 5, 2010

INDONESIA on Thursday defended its blasphemy law as vital to religious harmony in the mainly Muslim country as human rights groups tried to demonstrate in court the legislation was unconstitutional.

As Islamic hardliners protested outside, Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar told a Constitutional Court hearing that the law guaranteed tolerance in the pluralistic state. 'We're worried that religious harmony, which is now strong, will be torn apart because of this unclear petition.... This kind of request should be ignored,' he said on the first day of the hearings.

A coalition of human rights groups said the 1965 law contravened the freedom of religion which is guaranteed in the constitution.

'This law justifies state interference in the interpretation of religious teachings. We're no longer an authoritarian state so this kind of law should be revoked,' human rights activist Asmara Nababan told AFP. 'The state should guarantee that everybody has the right to their own religious beliefs, as this is a basic human right.'

Under the blasphemy law, it is illegal to 'publicise, recommend or organise public support' for different interpretations of five recognised faiths or any religion other than those five. The five belief systems protected in the law are Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism and Islam. The blasphemy law was used in 2008 to effectively ban the Islamic Ahmadiyah sect in the face of violent protests by Muslim extremists.

Ahmadiyah followers believe the sect's founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was the final prophet of Islam rather than Mohammed, breaking one of the religion's tenets. The sect's mosques have been burned and Ahmadis have been forced underground for fear of further attacks by radical Islamic vigilante groups. -- AFP

http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/SEAsia/Story/STIStory_486549.html

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Singapore's Muslim Congregation Prays For Kelantan Sultan's Early Recovery

February 05, 2010

The Sultan of Kelantan, Sultan Ismail Petra Ibni Sultan Yahya Petra may not be a well-known figure for many in Singapore.

Yet, for the Muslim congregation at the Al-Falah Mosque in Cairnhill Place near the Orchard Road here, not a day goes by without them reciting the Al-Fatihah and saying a special prayer for the sultan.

Al-Falah Mosque executive chairman Yahya Hashim said Friday, the imam-led congregation at the mosque had been saying special prayers for the speedy recovery of the sultan since he was admitted to the Mount Elizabeth Hospital here for treatment.

He said the mosque's representatives, including himself, had also visited the sultan at the hospital last year as it was only a 100 metres away from the mosque.

On Wednesday, the sultan's uncle, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, was reported saying that Sultan Ismail Petra was getting better and that he had recovered in terms of speech.

He said the ruler had also expressed interest on current developments in the country, especially in Kelantan.

On Thursday, the Kelantan Government was reported to have planned to transfer the sultan to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital soon, but the decision had yet to be finalised.

http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsindex.php?id=473805

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Bombings hit Iraq Shia pilgrims in Karbala

February 05, 2010

Two suicide bombers have killed 27 people and injured dozens on the outskirts of the Iraqi city of Karbala, police reports say.

About a million Shia Muslim pilgrims are in the city to visit the Imam Hussein shrine. About 60 pilgrims were killed in two other attacks this week.

Friday is the last and most important day of the Arbaeen, 40 days of mourning for the Prophet Muhammad's grandson.

Meanwhile, 11 people were killed in an attack on Shias in Karachi in Pakistan.

Election fears

Police said the Karbala attack was a double suicide bombing - two cars packed with explosives were detonated on either side of a bridge across which pilgrims were making their way in and out of the city.

Some reports said the car bomb attack was followed up by mortar rounds.

Provincial governor Amalheddin al-Hir told the Agence France-Presse news agency he believed that al-Qaeda militants, supported by the outlawed Baath party of former leader Saddam Hussein, had carried out the attack.

The attack came despite heightened security for the pilgrimage to Karbala, which Mr Hir said had drawn about 10 million worshippers to the Imam Hussein shrine over the past two weeks.

This year's pilgrimage has already been hit twice by bombers.

A bomb planted on a cart pulled by a motorbike killed at least 20 pilgrims on Wednesday as they streamed into Karbala.

Bus targeted

And more than 40 pilgrims were killed on the outskirts of the capital Baghdad on Monday as they began the long walk to Karbala.

The bombings also raise fears of heightened sectarian violence before Iraq's March parliamentary elections.

The sectarian tension has risen with the row over the banning of more than 500 candidates, many for links to the Baath party.

Sunnis believe they have been heavily targeted in the exclusions, which are the subject of a legal challenge.

The Pakistan attack, possibly involving a bomb on a motorcycle, targeted a bus carrying Shia Muslims to a religious procession also marking Arbaeen.

In addition to the 11 dead, about 50 people were injured.

The Shia-Sunni schism originates from a dispute soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad over who should lead the Muslims.

Sunnis remain the majority globally, with Shias estimated to number about 10% of all Muslims. Shias are however the majority in Iraq.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8500131.stm

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Indonesia clerics horrified over film on menstruating ghost

5 February 2010

JAKARTA: A new Indonesian horror movie about a menstruating ghost ran foul of the country’s highest Islamic body on Thursday.

‘Hantu Puncak Datang Bulan’ (The Menstruating Ghost of Puncak) made its debut in Jakarta on Thursday and was quickly condemned by senior clerics in the mainly Muslim country. “I watched that horror movie... it contains sex scenes, violence and decapitation. I call on the film censorship board not to approve its screening,” Indonesian Ulema Council official Amirsyah Tambunan said.

“Muslims have the right to watch the film but I suggest they don’t because it contains scenes that are against Islamic principles,” he added.

But Tambunan said he council, which is the highest Islamic body in the land, had no plans to pass a fatwa or religious edict forbidding Muslims from watching the film.

The religious body claimed that the strong sexual and violent content threatened the morals of the country, which has the world’s largest population of Muslims.

‘Hantu Puncak Datang Bulan’ contains graphic gore scenes and erotica involving scantily clad actress Andi Soraya. Muslim leaders in September condemned plans for 23-year-old Japanese porn star Maria Ozawa, popularly known as Miyabi, to visit the country to play herself in a comedy ‘Menculik Miyabi’ (Kidnapping Miyabi). The actress consequently “postponed” her trip.

In December, Australian movie ‘Balibo’ was banned because it depicts the alleged murder of five Australian-based journalists by invading Indonesian forces in East Timor in 1975. Indonesia claims the men died in crossfire.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/Indonesia-clerics-horrified-over-film-on-menstruating-ghost/articleshow/5536641.cms

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Ex-MLA gave me shelter: Delhi bomber

Rahul Tripath

5 February 2010

NEW DELHI: In a shocking disclosure, arrested Indian Mujahideen terrorist Shahzad Alam has revealed to the police that he was provided shelter and financial help by a former Delhi MLA after he escaped from the Batla House shootout on September 19, 2008. According to sources in Delhi Police crime branch, Shahzad has also claimed that a Bihar-based former junior minister and a prominent Mumbai politician helped him evade arrest.

Shahzad, arrested in Azamgarh, was handed over by the UP cops to Delhi Police crime branch on Monday and brought to the capital on Tuesday. Since then, he has been intensively questioned by police as well as Intelligence Bureau for details of IM activities, and also on how he and Ariz alias Junaid were able to elude the police siege of Batla House.

Shahzad has reportedly told the police that when the firing began at L-18 Batla House, he and Junaid were in another room. He then went to the balcony and saw policemen. While the gunbattle raged on near the front door, the duo fled through the second exit. They ran down the same stairs used by the police team to come up, apparently shouting that they were residents. In the ongoing melee outside the building, they were able to stage a getaway. They then took an auto-rickshaw to Shaheen Bagh where they were sheltered by the former MLA, now based in Noida.

Since the two were short of money, the ex-MLA allegedly provided the cash that helped them board a train for Aligarh. The two then went to Lucknow and Azamgarh from where Junaid parted ways with Shahzad. At this time, the two IM terrorists were reportedly assisted by the junior minister from Bihar by way of more finances. With Shahzad also naming a Mumbai politician, police are verifying an account of the terrorist’s visit to the city alongwith Junaid.

When asked about the identity of the ex-MLA, the crime branch officers were tightlipped and said Shahzad’s claims were being tracked and verified. However, they did not rule out the possibility of the politician being called in for questioning in connection with the case.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Ex-MLA-gave-me-shelter-Delhi-bomber/articleshow/5536784.cms

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Chechnya militants kill five Russian soldiers

5 February 2010

Militants have killed five Russian soldiers in the troubled North Caucasus region of Chechnya, officials say.

The gunfight broke out on Thursday night in forested mountains south-west of the region's capital Grozny, Russia's interior ministry said.

Russia's Itar-Tass news agency said six more soldiers were wounded in the skirmish against some 15 militants.

Unrest continues in Chechnya despite Russia saying last year normality had returned after a decade-long campaign.

The troops' platoon commander, the section commander and a sniper were among those killed, in one of the worst single incident death tolls suffered by Russian security forces in recent months.

Five insurgents were also killed in Thursday night's gunfight, according to pro-Moscow officials in Chechnya.

Russian forces have fought two wars against separatists in the mainly Muslim republic of Chechnya since 1994. The conflicts claimed more than 100,000 lives and left the region in ruins.

Although Chechnya has in recent years been more peaceful, sporadic violence continues, and President Dmitry Medvedev says violence in the North Caucasus remains Russia's biggest domestic problem.

In recent years the fighting has spread to nearby Dagestan and Ingushetia, where correspondents say a violent Islamist insurgency is growing.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8499848.stm

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AMU’s Bihar campus to buzz from July-Aug

Raj Kumar

5 February 2010

PATNA: Aligarh Muslim University’s Bihar and Kerala campuses would become functional from the next academic session beginning July-August 2010.

While the Kerala government has provided the land and the Centre allocated initial funds for the campus in Malappuram district, the varsity is likely to get 250 acres for the purpose in Bihar’s Kishanganj district soon.

That comes from the horse’s mouth. “CM Nitish Kumar has directed officials to place the land proposal before the state cabinet at its meeting either on February 9 or February 16,” AMU VC Prof P K Abdul Azis told TOI after meeting the CM on Thursday.

Azis is hopeful of getting the land by this month-end. For, it is government-owned land falling under Chakla and Govindpur villages, 6 km from Kishanganj district HQ. “I told the CM we would be as fast as you are,” the VC said and added Kumar is “pleasantly disposed” to facilitate the project.

After the Sachar panel highlighted educational backwardness among Muslims and the National Committee for Minority Education recommended to the Centre that AMU be permitted to open campuses in different minority-concentration regions, AMU has proposed to open five special centres in Kerala, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. “We have been approached by the Assam government to open such a campus there too as the state has 39% Muslim population,” Prof Azis said and added AMU is yet to take a call on the Assam plea.

Full report at:  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/AMUs-Bihar-campus-to-buzz-from-July-Aug/articleshow/5536978.cms

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Al-Qaida tag used to strike terror

Mateen Hafeez

5 February 2010

MUMBAI: Extortionists are apparently bored of using names of dreaded underworld gangs to scare their targets.

Nearly half a dozen five-star hotels in the city have received similar emails which ask them to cough up huge sums of money, failing which the establishments will be blown up. And the sender claims to be an al-Qaida operative.

The emails are being probed by the Crime Branch’s Cyber Crime Investigation Cell (CCIC). The sender, who has referred to himself as an al-Qaida operative, says he is part of a group that has been given the job to attack these hotels. But the hotels had one way of preventing these attacks, he added, explaining that they could pay up. Officials, however, refused to divulge the amounts the hotels had been asked to pay up.

The internet protocol (IP) address from which the mails were sent had been traced to the United States. ‘‘The sender has given a Western Union account number asking the hotels to transfer the money to that account,’’ an official said, adding that the account was registered in someone’s name in the US. ‘‘But it could also have been a proxy e-mail that would show the IP address in a foreign country despite it being sent from somewhere in India itself,’’ said an officer.

Full report at:  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Al-Qaida-tag-used-to-strike-terror/articleshow/5536903.cms

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India asks, Pak agrees to secy-level talks

5 February 2010

NEW DELHI: A day after foreign minister S M Krishna said that only a few steps by Pakistan could lead to normalization of ties between the two countries, New Delhi on Thursday confirmed that it has proposed foreign secretary-level talks with Islamabad.

Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao called her counterpart Salman Basheer a couple of days ago to propose the talks, which would cover all aspects of "peace and stability" in South Asia and can potentially lead to the resumption of the composite dialogue stalled in the aftermath of 26/11 attack on Mumbai.

The talks are likely to be held in Delhi and within weeks. Dates are yet to be confirmed, though Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the high commissioner, Shahid Malik, had been asked to work out dates with the MEA. The talks between foreign secretaries are expected to be devoted to sorting out the scope of dialogue.

While the agenda is yet to be formalized, sources said India would focus on counter-terrorism, while Pakistan, expectedly would focus on Kashmir.

It's not yet clear whether the resumption would be of the old composite dialogue or a brand new vision of engagement. NSA Shiv Shankar Menon had been in favour of a new move, arguing that the old dialogue had exhausted its usefulness.

Full report at:  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-asks-Pak-agrees-to-secy-level-talks/articleshow/5536808.cms

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Blast puts focus on US troops in Pak

Jane Perlez

5 February 2010

ISLAMABAD: The deaths of three US soldiers in a Taliban suicide attack on Wednesday lifted the veil on US military assistance to Pakistan that the authorities here would like to keep quiet and the Americans, as the donors, chafe at not receiving credit for.

Pakistani police said on Thursday they had arrested 30 suspects in connection with the bombing. The soldiers were among at least 60 to 100 members of a Special Operations team that trains Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps in counterinsurgency techniques, including intelligence gathering and development assistance. The US service members are from the Special Operations Command of Admiral Eric Olson.

These soldiers were the first killed as part of the Special Operations training, which has been under way for 18 months. That training has been acknowledged only gingerly by the Americans and the Pakistanis, but has been kept low-key so as not to trespass onto Pakistani sensitivities about sovereignty, and not to further inflame high anti-US sentiment.

The three Americans killed in the attack were assigned to the training mission but worked as “civil affairs” specialists.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Blast-puts-focus-on-US-troops-in-Pak/articleshow/5536602.cms

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We want ‘all-encompassing’ talks: Pakistan

Nirupama Subramanian

February 5, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday said it wants “all-encompassing” talks with India with the issues of Kashmir and river-water sharing topping the agenda, and wants to be seen as firm that the engagement must take place in the framework of the composite dialogue process.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a television channel that Pakistan would welcome India’s readiness to hold talks with Pakistan after a 14-month hiatus if the engagement would lead to the resumption of the composite dialogue process.

“India is sending signals that they are willing to talk bilaterally. We welcome this if it leads to resumption of the composite dialogue,” he said.

Earlier, speaking at a weekly briefing before India’s proposal for Foreign Secretary-level talks was made public in New Delhi, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said “some proposals” for talks were being discussed, but did not give details.

He said, however, that Pakistan “would welcome first of all the resumption of the composite dialogue because we are for a meaningful engagement with India.”

Mr. Basit disagreed with a questioner over the usefulness of the composite dialogue process in the four years that it provided the framework for India-Pakistan talks before running aground on the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

“I think the process of composite dialogue has been successful in the context of Jammu and Kashmir in generating the possible or the required momentum, and the two countries agreed on a number of confidence-building measures in the context of J&K, so I would not agree with you that the composite dialogue has not been achieved anything concrete,” he said.

Full report at:  http://www.hindu.com/2010/02/05/stories/2010020554511000.htm

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Hizbul chief ready for talks

Syed Salahuddin

Muzaffarabad: In a significant shift from his routine anti-peace rhetoric, Pakistan-based United Jehad Council chief Syed Salahuddin on Thursday said he was ready for a dialogue with India if talks brought “real-time results”.

“We are interested in a serious and conducive dialogue [with India] with real-time results,” Salahuddin, who is among India’s most wanted militants, told a jehadi rally here in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

However, Salahuddin — who is also the commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest terror outfit fighting in Kashmir — said the militants would settle for “nothing less than complete freedom of Kashmir from India”, according to a Pakistani news agency. He opposed any division of Jammu and Kashmir or autonomy.

Calling for demilitarisation of the State, he alleged that “boisterous military build-up” was the “biggest and foremost hurdle in [solving the Kashmir] issue”. — IANS

http://www.hindu.com/2010/02/05/stories/2010020555081500.htm

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Ahmadinejad signals wish for atom deal: Envoy

Feb 05, 2010

Vienna : The Iranian president's announced readiness to send enriched uranium abroad, signals a wish to cooperate for a deal with big powers to ease nuclear tension, Tehran's envoy to the UN atomic agency said on Thursday.

Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told Reuters he had not notified the International Atomic Energy Agency of any new Iranian position on the IAEA-brokered proposal, stalled for months by disputes over where and how to carry it out.

Russia, France and the United States, the other parties to the plan under which Iran would swap potential atom bomb material for fuel for nuclear medicine, want Tehran to inform the IAEA of Ahmadinejad's gesture to prove he is serious.

Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday Iran was now prepared to send low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad before getting reactor fuel back. Before, Tehran insisted on small swaps on its own soil.

That would defeat the draft plan's purpose of reducing Iran's total LEU reserve below the quantity required to set off an atomic bomb, if it were refined to high purity.

"What my president said in fact shows that Iran has the political will to facilitate ... cooperation rather than confrontation, and now its up to the others to use this opportunity," Soltanieh said.

"His message is, in fact, a very positive, constructive message, testing the political and goodwill of others to shift gears from confrontation to cooperation."

Soltanieh said he had not conveyed Ahmadinejad's gesture to IAEA chief Yukiya Amano. Asked whether this would raise doubts whether Tehran had really shifted position, he said: "Please don't make a judgment." He declined to be specific.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/ahmadinejad-signals-wish-for-atom-deal-envoy/576030/

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US supports reintegration efforts of Karzai

Feb 05, 2010

Washington: United States supports the reintegration process moved by Afghan President Hamid Karzai considering this as an effective tool of counterinsurgency strategy, the Obama Administration has said.

"We do not think that many of the foot soldiers that are currently involved on the battlefield are necessarily ideologically driven," the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P J Crowley said yesterday.

"To the extent, through a combination of initiatives, that we can convince them to play a more constructive role in Afghanistan, and equip the Afghan government to provide peaceful alternatives for these individuals, and should they choose to move in a different direction, help with protection from retribution from the Taliban, we think this is a wise strategy," Crowley said.

Terming this as an Afghan-led strategy, Crowley said Karzai is requesting assistance of the United States and others as he pursues this effort.

"We are completely supportive of - as we indicated last week, during the conference in London," he said.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/us-supports-reintegration-efforts-of-karzai/576033/

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India, Bangladesh to fight terror together

Sanat K Chakraborty | Guwahati

Bangladesh and India are working together to weed out “all unwanted elements” — militants and fugitives.

A process (exchange of most wanted fugitives) has already begun, Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Tariq A Karim told journalists on the sidelines of a business dialogue organised by the Federation of Industries and Commerce of the Northeastern Region (FINER) on Thursday.

“We are now working together in fighting militancy and there has been some positive outcome,” Karim said, asserting that both the countries had to ‘act more closely’ to root out militancy from the two States.

He claimed that the Bangladesh Government — under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina — had already taken a number of measures against anti-India forces. Bangladesh too now expects Indian to reciprocate in equal measure and hand over fugitives in India to Bangladesh.

Karim also spoke about opportunities that warming relations between the two countries could offer to one another through promotion of trade and tourism.

The High Commissioner met Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and mooted a slew of proposals related to promotion of trade, commerce and tourism, which could bring mutual benefit to the northeastern region and Bangladesh.

Karim advocated a few first steps, such as air connectivity between Dhaka and Guwahati and opening a visa office in Guwahati. He also highlighted certain progress in bilateral trade between the two countries, even as the balance of trade remained tilted against Bangladesh.

Recently, both countries have been able to free as many as 47 out of 101 tradeable items from the negative list. Bilateral trade dialogue gained impetus after the recent visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina; it’s hoped the two neighbours will trade freely on any item soon.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/233944/India-Bangladesh-to-fight-terror-together.html

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India-Pakistan conflict a dilemma for US

By Anwar Iqbal

05 Feb, 2010

WASHINGTON: A major dilemma for the United States in Afghanistan is to reconcile the conflicting security interests of countries like India and Pakistan, says a senior US official.

“The Indians have a legitimate series of security interests in that region, as do a number of other countries including, of course, Pakistan, China, and all the other countries that neighbour on Afghanistan,” said Richard Holbrooke, US special representative for the Pak-Afghan region, when asked to comment on the traditional jostling between Pakistan and India for greater influence in Afghanistan.

“And any search for a resolution of the war in Afghanistan requires that the legitimate security interests of every country be understood and taken into account,” he said.

“The dilemma arises when those security interests tend to be in conflict. Afghanistan has suffered throughout history by the fact that it has sometimes become the terrain for Full report at:  http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/front-page/12-holbrooke-on-afghan-stability-indiapakistan-conflict-a-dilemma-for-us-520--bi-11

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Hearing in two cases against Zardari put off

February 5, 2010

RAWALPINDI: An accountability court on Thursday put off hearing in two corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari after the other accused sought time to prepare their cases afresh.

In the first case, Court-IV Judge Tariq Abbasi adjourned the hearing in the Ursus tractor case till Feb 19 after former agriculture minister Nawab Yousaf Talpur sought time to respond to the court.

The court issued fresh summons to Badruddin Zahidi, former president of the Agriculture Development Bank, to appear in the court. Begum Nusrat Bhutto is one of the accused in the case.

In the Polo ground case, hearing was put off till Feb 24 because former Islamabad commissioner Saeed Mehdi sought time to gather facts because it had been adjourned sine die in 2001.

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/front-page/16-hearing-in-two-cases-against-zardari-put-off-hs-07

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Iran tells Gulf US missiles could be made useless

February 5, 2010

TEHRAN, Feb 4: A senior Iranian military official told Gulf states on Thursday not to squander money on US missiles, saying that Iran could render them useless, the state news agency Irna reported.

Tehran on Wednesday slammed plans by the United States to beef up defence in the Gulf against potential Iranian missile attacks, with the Islamic republic insisting it posed no threat to its neighbours.

“Installing anti-missile Patriot missiles is a new trick to empty the pockets of rich Persian Gulf countries,” said General Hassan Firuzabadi, the joint chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces.

“Patriot missiles can be rendered ineffective by simple tactics, and I advise the regional countries, especially Islamic states, not to waste their money on these missiles which have not worked anywhere,” he said.

US President Barack Obama’s administration is reportedly placing ships with missile-targeting capabilities off Iran’s coast, and anti-missile systems in at least four Gulf states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Bahrain acknowledged on Wednesday that Gulf defence capabilities were being upgraded but urged Iran not to see them as plans for attack.

The moves come as Iran remains locked in a standoff with the West over its nuclear programme, which many world powers believe is masking a weapons drive.

Iran has vehemently denied this. Iran has carried out frequent war games in the Gulf and paraded an array of home-grown missiles over the past years.

An Iranian Revolutionary Guards official also said on Wednesday that Iran had developed anti-armour weapons which could combat US Apache helicopters and armoured tanks.

“The enemy should not think their Apache helicopters can have the same power that they have in Iraq and Afghanistan in Iran,” Naser Arab-beigi, who heads the self-sufficiency organisation of the Revolutionary Guards, told Fars news agency.—AFP

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/front-page/iran-tells-gulf-us-missiles-could-be-made-useless-520

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Man arrested after attacks on Muslim graves.

February 05, 2010

A MAN has been arrested following a series of attacks on Muslim graves.

Gravestones were damaged and knocked over in three separate incidents in Southern Cemetery, in Northenden, towards the end of last year.

Up to 20 plots were vandalised last October. Staff arrived at the cemetery to find gravestones had been deliberately pushed over and a number broken. More than 20 gravestones were pushed over in another incident the following month.

A 22-year-old has been arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage and has been bailed until March 11 pending further inquiries.

Inquiries are ongoing.

Police are appealing for anyone with information to contact them on 0161 856 6151 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/s/1191697_man_arrested_after_attacks_on_muslim_graves

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In spite of numbers, Dutch Muslim are political non-entity

By Brian van der Bol and Mark Hoogstad

5 February 2010

Several Muslim parties will participate in Dutch municipal elections on March 3. But in spite of a sizable Muslim electorate, they have so far been unable to garner many votes.

The Islam Democrats (ID), represented by a single delegate in The Hague’s city council since 2006, wanted desperately to avoid a swift implosion, as has been the fate of some other young Dutch political parties in recent memory. They failed. The party fell prey to infighting and is now divided into two feuding camps. The party’s plans to participate in the upcoming municipal elections in Rotterdam, Utrecht, and other Dutch cities, have been put on hold.

Mohammed Rabbae, a former member of parliament for the Green party and currently chair of national organisation representing Moroccan interests, expressed his regrets over the schism. “More unity would be good,” he said. Two years ago, Rabbae still believed the ID would blossom into a stable, national political force representing Muslims. “These are people who operate within the limits of Dutch law, but are also able to give a voice to the Islamic community’s grievances. They have done well challenging the dominant stereotypes of Muslims,” Rabbae said.

The power struggle within the ID’s ranks came as no surprise to Rabbae however. “Sectarian and personal interests are often paramount in Islamic movements,” Rabbae said, citing the lack of a “uniting leader” and an established base as contributing factors.

The Netherlands is home to some 825,000 Muslims, according to government statistics, accounting for five percent of the population. In cities like The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, approximately one in ten residents adhere to the Muslim faith. This makes the electoral potential for Islamic parties significant. But while populist Geert Wilders gathers much of his support by scolding Muslims in the Netherlands, parties that want to unite them are yet to find their constituency.

Divided amongst themselves

Full report at:  http://www.nrc.nl/international/article2476660.ece/In_spite_of_numbers,_Dutch_Muslim_are_political_non-entity

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Germany's Very Own Minaret Debate Turns Nasty

5 February 2010

A small Muslim community in a western German town would like to build a minaret on its mosque. But the plan has triggered passionate opposition from locals, many of whom rely on rhetoric from the extreme right in railing against the "symbol of Islam's quest for power."

"Willkommen," reads the stencilled print on the wall along the riverside boardwalk in the small town of Völklingen. Not content to just welcome its German guests, however, the message is translated into a number of languages. "Bienvenue ... bienvenidos ... velkommen," it reads. And "hosgeldiniz," a nod to the city's substantial Turkish population.

Elsewhere in the city -- particularly in the quarter known as Wehrden -- Muslim immigrants may not feel quite as welcome. A small mosque on the banks of the Saar River there has applied for a permit to build a small minaret on its roof -- triggering a wave of at-times vehement protest reminiscent of the fuss surrounding the November 2009 referendum in Switzerland to ban minarets in the country.

"I am against the Islamification of our fatherland!" reads a message, posted by "Tommy" on the Web site of the local paper Saarbrücker Zeitung. "Islam is the greatest threat facing humanity," he adds.

Full report at:  http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,676156,00.html

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Sonia approved Azamgarh trip: Digvijay

Bhaskar Roy

5 February 2010

NEW DELHI: Faced with protests from the BJP and palpable discomfort within his own party, Congress leader Digvijay Singh on Thursday claimed that he had the approval of party chief Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Rahul Gandhi for his Mission Azamgarh.

“Before coming here to meet these families, I spoke to the Congress president and also Rahul Gandhi,” he told TOI from Azamgarh. Singh was the first senior Congress leader to reach out to the families of alleged terrorists and sought to appreciate their viewpoint. “There are boys who have got some 60 cases registered against them in four states,” he said.

Singh said that neither had he promised the families anything nor did they ask for the release of the boys. “The only thing their parents are asking for is speedy trial of the cases,” he said.

The party general secretary said he would submit a report detailing the nature of the cases and views of the families to both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress chief. “Why should not there be a designated court to try these cases clubbing them together,” he asked, saying this was something he would propose. However, Singh’s visit to the ‘terror catchment area’ of Azamgarh triggered considerable unease within Congress. “You have to ask him for the meaning and scope of his statement (in Azamgarh),” party spokes-man Abhishek Singhvi told reporters when pressed for a response to Singh’s Azamgarh trip.

The issue has acquired an extra dimension as the Congress Working Committee is meeting on Friday to discuss the prevailing price situation.

A group of BJP supporters staged a demonstration in the afternoon outside the Congress headquarters protesting what they called Singh’s ‘soft approach’ to the issues of terror. Singh, in charge of Uttar Pradesh affairs in the party, however, was unfazed. “Most of the people arrested so far are not products of madrassa education. They are well educated — I came here to understand why, how all this happened,” he said.

He claimed that on his way to Azamgarh, he faced hostile demonstrations by both the RSS-BJP elements and Muslim hardliners. “I had it from both sides,” he said.

Asked about the possibility of an adverse impact of his Azamgarh visit on the party’s poll prospects, he said politics was not uppermost on his mind when he had decided to undertake the visit. “Keep politics out of it; it’s a sensitive matter if educated Muslim youths lose confidence in the system,” he said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Sonia-approved-Azamgarh-trip-Digvijay/articleshow/5536819.cms

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Terrorism between the covers

By Sangeeth Sebastian

5 February 2010

WRITER Mukul Deva may have had a relatively brief stint in the army, but he certainly has an insight on how the future terror strikes on the country could be.

The writer who pioneered the genre of military thriller with his Lashkar series was at Vasant Kunj for the launch of his latest novel Blowback ( Harper Collins, Rs 199) on Wednesday.

“ The tragedy of 26/ 11 was a major turning point in terms of terror attacks,” he said in a conversation with J. K. Dutt, former Director General of the National Security Guard, who presided over the commando unit during 26/ 11, and Gagandeep Bakshi, a former Major General.

“ The future attacks are now going to be a swarm; like bees the terrorist will target multiple locations simultaneously,” warned Deva. The author had served in the army for nearly a decade before turning to his first love — writing.

His latest military offering Blowback , which means boomerang in military parlance, talks about the “ unintended and unfortunate consequence of an intelligence operation.” Written in a “ racy style,” the book is based on the bomb blasts that occurred in various parts of the country in 2008.

Dutt said that there was a time when people were scared to talk about terrorism. “ Writers like Mukul Deva have removed that veil of secrecy,” he said.

The near 45- minute- long discussion occasionally threatened to digress, with some of the guests keen to know more about the NSG operation during 26/ 11 than the book.

“ Let us not forget that this is a discussion on the novel and not about NSG,” reminded Dutt before making some bleak prognosis for the inquisitive. “ I do not want to sound alarmist,” he said. “ With just 3,500 intelligence officers for the entire country, we are going to face a difficult time ahead.” Deva who is also an entrepreneur based in Delhi will come up with his final book in the Lashkar series, Tanzim , next year.

Mail Today, New Delhi.

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Mixed Views of Hamas and Hezbollah in Largely Muslim Nations

February 5, 2010

Little Enthusiasm for Many Muslim Leaders

cross predominantly Muslim nations, there is little enthusiasm for the extremist Islamic organizations Hamas and Hezbollah, although there are pockets of support for both groups, especially in the Middle East.

Four years after its victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections, Hamas receives relatively positive ratings in Jordan (56% favorable) and Egypt (52%). However, Palestinians are more likely to give the group a negative (52%) than a positive (44%) rating. And reservations about Hamas are particularly common in the portion of the Palestinian territories it controls – just 37% in Gaza express a favorable opinion, compared with 47% in the West Bank.

A survey conducted May 18 to June 16, 2009 by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project also finds limited support for the Lebanese Shia organization Hezbollah.1 While most Palestinians (61%) and about half of Jordanians (51%) have a favorable view of Hezbollah, elsewhere opinions are less positive, including Egypt (43%) and Lebanon (35%). As with many issues in Lebanon, views of Hezbollah are sharply divided along religious lines: nearly all of the country's Shia Muslims (97%) express a positive opinion of the organization, while only 18% of Christians and 2% of Sunni Muslims feel this way.

Meanwhile, Turks overwhelmingly reject both groups – just 5% give Hamas a positive rating and only 3% say this about Hezbollah. There is also little support among Israel's Arab population for either Hamas (21% favorable) or Hezbollah (27%). Outside of the Middle East, many in Pakistan, Indonesia, and Nigeria are unable to offer an opinion about these groups.

Full report at:  http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/Display_news.asp?section=World_News&subsection=India&month=February2010&file=World_News2010020582326.xml

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Nuclear fuel deal: Another turnaround in Teheran

February 5, 2010

YET another U-turn by Iran, albeit welcome, has come in the midst of hectic developments. With the US deploying a complementary sea-borne anti-missile system and boosting its land-based Patriot missiles in the Gulf, Iran decided to back down from its obdurate position on the nuclear fuel deal. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has now indicated a willingness to accept the deal proposed earlier in 2009 by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Having earlier rejected the deal to enrich almost three quarters of Iran’s low enriched uranium stockpile abroad into civilian purpose nuclear fuel over a one-year period, Teheran now wants to play ball. Typically ambiguous, Ahmadinejad has now acquiesced to the deal without specifying the quantity to be enriched abroad. Another spanner thrown in the works by him relates to the time period. Iran has specified a four to five month period for the return of the processed uranium. While the reaction to the latest Iranian proposal from other states party to the P5+1 talks is yet to come, the US has issued a guarded reaction. Washington is waiting for Iran to communicate its decision to the IAEA before responding formally to the proposal. Largely perceived as a face-saving gesture, Ahmadinejad’s explanation for the delay was due to opposition among his ‘colleagues’ who feared that the uranium would not be returned. Dismissing those concerns, he said that Iran was able to produce its own uranium even if such a situation occurred. That would discredit the IAEA. So far Teheran has been lucky to escape further sanctions. Thanks to Russia and China opposing the US-proposed sanctions on its oil industry among others, Iran has played an able hand. With US patience running thin over both Iran’s refusal to budge and the inability to reach a consensus on sanctions among the Security Council member states, it decided to put pressure by flexing its muscles in Iran’s neighbourhood.

Full report at:  http://dailymailnews.com/0210/05/Editorial_Column/DMEditorial.php#1

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Thousands rally for Kashmir in Pakistan

By Sajjad Qayyum

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan — Thousands of people rallied across Pakistan on Friday to denounce Indian rule in Kashmir, the disputed mainly Muslim state divided between the nuclear-armed rivals.

A Pakistani public holiday, Kashmir Solidarity Day, supports the region's right to self-determination in line with UN resolutions that call for a plebiscite in Kashmir on whether it should be ruled by India or Pakistan.

This year's event came a day after it emerged India had proposed foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan, a breakthrough in relations that were frozen after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, blamed on Pakistani militants.

Banners and hoardings calling for Kashmir's freedom from Indian rule were put up by main roads and intersections across Pakistan.

In the capital Islamabad, several thousand activists from hardline party Jamaat-e-Islami demonstrated and formed a human chain, an AFP photographer saw.

In Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city, thousands of people took to the streets chanting "Allah Akbar" (God is greatest), "We want jihad against India" and "Kashmir will become Pakistan", an AFP reporter witnessed.

Pakistan observed a one-minute silence at 10:00 am (0500 GMT) as a mark of respect to the more than 47,000 people killed since an insurgency broke out in mainly Muslim Indian Kashmir in 1989.

In the Pakistani-administered zone, hundreds of people from the hardline Sunni Muslim party Jamaat-e-Islami rallied in the regional capital Muzaffarabad, while hundreds of other people formed a human chain in the town of Kohala.

"I warn India to stop human violations in Indian Kashmir and pull out its forces from there. The UN and America should also stop India from its cruelties," Raja Mohammad Naseem, a provincial minister, told participants.

Demonstrators rallied in Pakistan's financial capital Karachi and the other major cities of Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta.

"I wish to reassure my Kashmiri brethren that Pakistan remains firmly committed to finding a just and peaceful solution of the Kashmir dispute," said President Asif Ali Zardari in a published statement.

Kashmir was split in two in the aftermath of independence on the subcontinent when British rule ended in 1947. Both India and Pakistan claim the entire territory, which is divided by a heavily militarised Line of Control.

India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring the Islamist insurgency in Kashmir. Pakistan denies the claim but has often spoken in support of the fighters.

Copyright © 2010 AFP.

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Blame game on in Kashmir

Khursheed Wani | Srinagar

The ruling National Conference and Opposition People’s Democratic Party have locked horns on the prevailing situation in Kashmir, blaming each other for the mess. While the PDP described the situation as the “failure of the Omar Abdullah-led Government,” the ruling party said the PDP was attempting to cash in on the unrest to destabilise the Government and its “pro-people developmental agenda.”

“We appeal to the people of Valley, particularly the city dwellers to cooperate with the Government to bring back normalcy,” senior NC leader and Rural Development Minister Ali Muhammad Sagar said at a Press conference. “Vested interests are hell-bent on bringing miseries to people, derailing developmental work and continuing an atmosphere of violence,” he added. He regretted the death of teenager Wamiq Farooq, saying the Chief Minister has ordered inquiry into the circumstances which led to his death and a police officer has been suspended.

Sagar said it was painful to round up separatist leaders or protestors but the Government was constrained to take action. “Some people cannot hold the Government hostage for their vested interests.”

Sagar differed with the view of Director General CRPF that Pakistan was funding stone throwers to fuel “gunless terrorism” in the Valley but maintained that presence of some professional stone throwers was not ruled out.

“I don’t subscribe to his (DGs) view entirely. Maybe he has some input. There can be some groups who encourage stone pelting. But the unrest on teenager’s killing is not misplaced. We acknowledge that there is a problem in Kashmir that needs resolution”, he explained.

He took a dig at PDP president Mehbooba Mufti for linking the present turmoil with performance of the coalition Government. “Why doesn’t she recall the period when her party left the Government after massacring 70 people in Kashmir on an issue (Amarnath land row) that was the creation of two ministers of her own party,” he said.

Chief Minister’s advisor Mubarak Gul and junior tourism minister Nasir Aslam Wani blamed the PDP for fanning unrest in the city to achieve political goals.

Earlier, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti accused the Omar Abdullah Government of “failure to tackle situation in the wake of recent agitation”. She said that she did not attend the district development board meeting at Shopian to register protest against the Government.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah chaired the board meeting. Interestingly, PDP represents both constituencies including Wachi that is represented by Mehbooba herself.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/233899/Blame-game-on-in-Kashmir.html

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Kashmir settlement urged for durable peace

By Iftikhar A. Khan

February 5, 2010

ISLAMABAD: President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Raja Zulqarnain has called upon the world community to persuade India to come to the negotiating table for resolving the longstanding Kashmir issue.

Speaking at a seminar on the eve of Kashmir day here on Thursday, he said Kashmir continued to be a flashpoint and its settlement was needed for durable peace in the region.

The seminar was organised jointly by the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, (ISSI) and the special parliamentary committee on Kashmir.

Mr Zulqarnain said the Kashmiris’ freedom struggle was purely an indigenous one, and lamented the fact that it was often described as a terrorist campaign.

Minister of State for Railways Mohammad Afzal Sandhu said the Kashmir issue was attached to all other problems being faced in the region. Pakistan sincerely wanted to resolve the dispute according to the UN Resolutions.

He said India was not willing to find a solution to the Kashmir dispute and described the Kashmiris’ freedom struggle as a terrorist campaign.

Maj-Gen (retd) Mohammad Anwar Khan, a former president of Azad Kashmir, said peace was yet to break out in the region because of the Indian hegemonic mentality.

The international community should not buy the Indian propaganda of terming the freedom struggle a terrorist campaign, he said, adding that the case of Kashmir could not be compared to any other freedom movement in India.

Director General of Institute of Strategic Studies Tanvir Ahmad Khan said the consistency of India to disrupt peace process was responsible for the lingering Kashmir dispute.

He said India had been employing different tactics to deny the Kashmiris their right to self determination. He accused former president Pervez Musharraf of making more and more concessions to India which were never reciprocated.

The speakers, including intellectuals and leaders of political parties of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, urged India to stop state terrorism in the occupied Kashmir.

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/16-kashmir-settlement-urged-for-durable-peace-hs-10

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