Shot Dead Because He Dropped the Koran.
When Ashiq Nabi got into an argument with his wife, she held up a Koran to protect herself, setting into motion a deadly series of events. Mr. Nabi then pushed his wife, say human rights activists, sending Islam's holy book onto the floor and prompting the local mullah in Spin Kakh, Pakistan, to file blasphemy charges.
Before the police could act, Nabi was spotted in town and the mullah allegedly spread the word over the mosque's loudspeakers. A mob of more than 400 villagers chased Nabi until he climbed up a tree, then shot him dead.The April incident is only the latest in a string of extrajudicial killings by vigilantes for blasphemy, which is punishable by death under Pakistani law.
And it helps explain the depth of feeling over the disputed charges that US interrogators flushed a Koran down a toilet in Guantánamo Bay - charges that have sent shock waves throughout the Muslim world.In Afghanistan, the allegation that appeared in Newsweek magazine triggered several days of anti-American rioting that left 15 dead and scores injured. Protests were also held in Pakistan, Indonesia, and other Muslim countries.
The magazine has subsequently expressed regret over the report after the source, an unnamed senior US government official, expressed uncertainty over the sources of his own information. The Pentagon, which said the original story is "demonstrably false," pledged to investigate the charges and blamed Newsweek's "irresponsible" reporting for the violent clashes.But while moderate Muslims welcomed the Newsweek follow-up in this week's issue, experts in Pakistan say that the more-extreme passions unleashed across the Muslim world are unlikely to be cooled by the doubts over the story, or by US government assurances that no desecration of the Koran would go unpunished.Most Muslims believe that the Koran was transmitted to Muhammad from Allah by the angel Gabriel nearly 1,400 years ago and written down precisely as Allah intended.
In practice, this is one of the reasons observant Muslims are urged to learn Arabic, since a translation is deemed no longer the precise word of God. Strict Muslims are expected to clean themselves ritually before touching the Koran. They don't allow the book to be set on the floor and, in some cases, hold that nonbelievers should not touch the book.More than 4,000 blasphemy cases have been registered since the laws were enacted in 1986, according to human rights activists. While no one has ever been officially executed for blasphemy, dozens have been killed by vigilantes.Blasphemy cases rarely involve malice against Islam. Rather, the charges are often pretexts rising out of petty issues ranging from cattle theft to land disputes. They are also used as a weapon against religious minorities, says Shabaz Bhatti, head of the All Pakistan Minority Alliance.
Last November, a Christian girl in the small town of Wah Cantt was accused of blasphemy after someone spotted pages of the Koran in a trash bin outside the house where she was cleaning.
Before the police could investigate, extremists attacked the house and threatened to kill her. Muslim and Christian elders intervened and handed the girl to the police in a bid to save her life, locals say. She was released, but the death threats continued, forcing her and her family to leave.
"We still feel that we are living under danger, under a shadow of a fake accusation," says a relative of the girl. "We have lived with our Muslim brothers for decades. They respect our beliefs and we respect their beliefs, except there are some extremists who want to ignite feelings on the basis of baseless allegations."
Egypt Street Mothers Find Refuge.
Set up with funding raised by Unicef Germany goodwill ambassador Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff, the street mothers' centre is the first of its kind in Egypt. Cradling her baby, Ahmed, in her arms, Hadir looks at ease with the world.
But her joy masks a very different kind of reality.
Only a few months ago, 16-year-old Hadir, on the run from problems with her family, was preparing to give birth on the crowded and unforgiving streets of Cairo.
Alone, scared and vulnerable, she was at the mercy of a world filled with violence, drugs and sexual abuse.
Just as all seemed lost, Hadir found sanctuary in a new rehabilitation centre for street mothers, operated by Hope Village Society, a group dedicated to the care and welfare of some of Egypt's most vulnerable children.
Several months later, her baby was safely delivered.
"I don't know what I would have done if there hadn't been this centre," she says. "The staff were so helpful before and during my delivery."
Sadly, Hadir's story is a familiar one.
Estimates show that poverty and family break-up mean anywhere between 200,000 and a million Egyptian youngsters have to fend for themselves on the streets of the country's major cities.
Their numbers are thought to be rising fast. Society tends to take an uncharitable view of these vulnerable youngsters.
Many Egyptians regard street children as a nuisance, or at worst as petty criminals fully meriting the harsh treatment to which they are often subjected.
Their health problems are often severe, ranging from cholera to tuberculosis and anaemia.
Studies show they are exposed to a variety of toxic substances, both in their food and in the environment around them.
They are also at risk of various kinds of abuse.
In one survey, 86% of street children questioned identified violence as a major problem in their life, while 50% stated that they had been exposed to sexual molestation.
In addition to operating the street mothers' centre, Hope Village runs a number of drop-in centres across Cairo, where children can come for medical attention, showers and food, before returning to the streets to sleep.
Four long-stay shelters in the city offer children a more permanent home.
Street children live in a separate world, one with its own set of rules.
Many mingle with the public quite unobtrusively, wandering aimlessly across the capital's chaotic, sun-beaten highways, and through the countless dirt-covered lanes and alleyways, as they search for food and, perhaps, a safer place to rest their heads as night approaches.
They may wash cars, sell tissue boxes or beg for money. Others lie where they had fallen the night before.
Asleep under a bridge, in a doorway or on a grass verge in the centre of Cairo itself, their slumber is often drug-induced - glue, solvents and cannabis being the substances most used.
Here, in Egypt's capital, a sprawling mass of some 16m human beings, people do not stop and stare.
Street children are not a surprising phenomenon. They are a part of Cairo, a part of Egypt, a part of life.
For girls like Hadir, however, there is a chance for a fresh start. Set up with funding raised by Unicef Germany goodwill ambassador Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff, the street mothers' centre is the first of its kind in Egypt.
Its aim is to provide young mothers and their babies with the secure surroundings they need in which to put their fractured lives back together.
Medical care, provided by a resident nurse and various visiting doctors, is an essential part of the centre.
Coptic Conference: Change of Location.
An announcement regarding the coming Coptic Conference in NY has appeared on the web site www.copts-united.com. This conference is being organized by Copts-United, the International Christian Union, and Eng. Cameel Haleem. The announcement describes the Conference as one of many actions taken-such as the recent Coptic demonstration in NY city- and other actions planned for the future. The aim being to support human rights and freedom of religion in the region of the Middle East.The readers are invited to participate in the fight against injustice, and in support of the weak and the persecuted in the countries of the Middle East. The statement declares that it is shameful and regretable that while Islamic countries, under the leadership of Saudi Arabia and Iran, are pouring money to encourage terrorism, the Christians of the area are standing alone without any support whatsoever, be it moral, financial, or political.The Coptic Conference was supposed to be held in the building of the UN, in NY city. However, the statement says, due to political and international pressure( especially from Egypt), it was decided to move it to: Holiday Inn, Newark Airport Hotel 160 Frontage Road, Newark, NJ 07114. The date and the times of the Conference are still the same as before. The Conference is planned to be shown through direct video link on the web sites of both Copts-United and the the International Christian Union.For full details (in Arabic) and contact information please visit http://www.copts-united.com
N.Z. Deports a Roommate of a Terrorist.
New Zealand's prime minister defended on Monday her government's decision to deport a former roommate of one of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
New Zealand said Saturday that Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali, a Yemeni, was deported to Saudi Arabia on May 30, claiming his presence in New Zealand posed a security threat.
The immigration minister has said there was no evidence he was involved in terrorist activities in New Zealand.
Rayed Abdullah is named in U.S. government reports as a roommate of Saudi Arabian Hani Hanjour, one of the hijackers aboard the airliner flown into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. Rayed Abdullah was never charged in connection with the attacks.
Rayed Abdullah entered New Zealand in February, telling authorities he wanted to study English in Auckland. He was deported one day after being arrested in Palmerston North, 335 miles south of Auckland, where he was taking pilot training at the Manawatu Districts Aero Club.
"When you have someone who clearly has been a close associate of a terrorist who took a plane into the Pentagon, it's clearly not useful to be providing them with pilot training in New Zealand," Prime Minister Helen Clark said.
Immigration Minister David Cunliffe said Monday the Yemeni man was expelled because of his "direct association with people involved in the 9/11 bombing, the nature of his ... activities in the United States (and) the general nature of his activities in New Zealand."
Rayed Abdullah already held a U.S. pilot's license and had 79 hours of flying time on his log book before arriving in New Zealand, the Manawatu club said.
Clark dismissed as "sheer speculation" reports that Rayed Abdullah had been allowed to enter the country deliberately so security services could monitor his activities.
She said he used an alias to enter the country.
"Clearly the man set out to deceive," Clark told the NewstalkZB radio network.
Canada Fights Terrorism funding.
Canada's ruling Conservatives will table legislation in the fall to tighten controls on anti-terrorist funding, officials said on Saturday, a week after 17 al Qaeda inspired suspects were arrested.Finance Minister Jim Flaherty takes on the presidency this month of the Financial Action Task Force, an international body that combats money-laundering, and Canada faces a health check of its domestic anti-terror laws in late 2007.
"We'll be moving forward ... and making sure we have our Canadian legislation in line this year, with the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force," Flaherty told reporters after a meeting of G8 finance ministers in St. Petersburg, Russia.A bill is likely to be presented to parliament in the fall that aims to improve on existing legislation, ministry officials said.
The Conservatives, who unseated the previous Liberal government in a January election, have significantly boosted policing resources in their first budget. But Flaherty has admitted the country still has problems controlling money-laundering and counterfeiting.The government initiative is a logical follow-up to a process of consultations and a "white paper" on anti-terrorist financing and money-laundering the government presented in 2005, the officials said. The white paper mentions Canada's burgeoning diamond industry as one source of illicit financing.The arrest of 17 men in Toronto on June 3 on charges of plotting bombings in major Canadian cities and training militants make the task all the more urgent but are not the reason for the new legislation, officials said.
One member of the ring faces accusations he planned to behead Prime Minister Stephen Harper, according to his lawyer.