FaithWorld

Ethiopia jails hundreds in Muslim attacks on Christians over Koran rumour

(A destroyed Protestant church in Asendabo, 300 km (200 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa, March 16, 2011, after Muslim youths attacked Christians/Aaron Maasho )

An Ethiopian court has sentenced 558 people to jail terms ranging from six months to 25 years for attacks on Christians that displaced thousands and led 69 churches to be burned to the ground. More than 4,000 members of local Protestant denominations were forced to flee near the town of Asendabo, some 300 kilometres (186 miles) west of the capital, in March during a rare bout of religious violence.

Mobs of Muslim youths carried out week-long attacks on Protestants after rumours that desecrated pages from the Koran had been found at a church construction site. Authorities reported a single death from the attacks.

“They were punished for their involvement in instigating and participating in religious disturbances in western Ethiopia,” government spokesman Shimelis Kemal said of the court cases. Forty-four people were acquitted.

Regional officials told Reuters almost all the displaced people have returned to their homes, some of which were repaired with support from local Muslims. Authorities, keen to avoid further fall-out between the two groups, have held several meetings in the area and claim normalcy has returned.

Dutch populist Geert Wilders acquitted of hate speech against Muslims

(Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders in the courtroom in Amsterdam June 23, 2011/Robin Utrecht)

Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders was acquitted of inciting hatred of Muslims in a court ruling on Thursday that may strengthen his political influence and exacerbate tensions over immigration policy. The case was seen by some as a test of free speech in a country which has a long tradition of tolerance and blunt talk, but where opposition to immigration, particularly from Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries, is on the rise.

Instantly recognizable by his mane of dyed blond hair, Wilders, 47, is one of the most outspoken critics of Islam and immigration in the Netherlands. His Freedom Party is now the third-largest in parliament, a measure of support for its anti-immigrant stance, and is the minority government’s chief ally. But many of Wilders’ comments — such as likening Islam to Nazism — are socially divisive.

Indian Supreme Court suspends controversial Ayodhya mosque ruling

(Hindu militants storm a disputed mosque-temple site December 6, 1992 climbing atop the building's dome as they demolish it to clear the site for a Hindu temple/Sunil Malhotra)

India’s Supreme Court has suspended a High Court ruling over the partition of a disputed site that has been a flashpoint for Hindu-Muslim clashes, throwing one of the country’s most religiously-divisive legal battles into uncertainty. A two-justice bench questioned the reasoning behind a ruling passed last year that divided the site of the former Babri Masjid mosque destroyed by Hindu rioters in 1992 into three separate plots for Hindus, Muslims, and a local Hindu trust.

The demolition of the 16th century mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya triggered some of India’s worst riots that killed about 2,000 people. Over 200,000 police were deployed for the September ruling to guard against communal violence.

Indonesia Muslims attack court, churches; mob kills Ahmadis

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(Anti-riot police block protesters outside the court where a Catholic man is on trial for blasphemy in Temanggung February 8, 2011/Stringer)

Hundreds of Muslim radicals set two churches ablaze and attacked a court in Indonesia’s central Java on Tuesday, calling for harsh punishment for a Christian on trial for blasphemy, police said.

The attacks come two days after a mob beat to death three followers of a minority Islamic sect considered heretical by mainstream Muslims, and at the start of so-called “Inter-faith week”, when the country is supposed to celebrate its pluralistic heritage.

Top French court rejects gay marriage appeal

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France’s ban on same-sex marriages was upheld by the country’s constitutional authority on Friday, in a ruling that relieves the government of any obligation to grant gays the wedding rights enjoyed by heterosexuals.

A handful of countries in Europe allow couples of the same sex to wed, and rights campaigners had hoped for a breakthrough in France, where two women living together had demanded the view of the Constitutional Council.

The Council said it found no conflict between the law as it stands and fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. It ruled that it was up to parliament, rather than the constitutional authorities, to decide whether the law should change.

U.S. legal win could help Islamic finance counter sharia concerns

bankislamA U.S. court decision to dismiss a case alleging that AIG’s (AIG.N) sharia-compliant businesses promoted religious doctrine looks likely to boost confidence in the industry and lift sales of Islamic products in the longer term.

A Michigan district court rejected on Friday a claim filed by U.S. Marine veteran Kevin Murray in 2009 that the U.S. government violated the constitution by allowing funds from insurer American International Group’s $40 billion bailout to be used to fund its Islamic insurance businesses. (Photo: A logo of Malaysia’s Bank Islam in Putrajaya September 3, 2008/Bazuki Muhammad)

Lawyers say the case is significant for the industry in the United States, which has struggled with a backlash against Islam, and is looking for support from the courts and government to promote Islamic finance as a legitimate business.

Pakistan Pres. Zardari barred from pardoning Christian woman

bibi 1 (Photo: Pprotesters demand the release of Asia Bibi at a Karachi rally, November 25, 2010/Akhtar Soomro)

A Pakistani court has barred President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning a Christian woman sentenced to death on charges of insulting Islam, in a case that has sparked criticism over the country’s blasphemy law. Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of four, requested a pardon from the president after a lower court sentenced her to death on Nov 8 in a case stemming from a village dispute.

The Lahore High Court barred Zardari on Monday from pardoning Bibi in a petition filed by Shahid Iqbal, a Pakistani citizen. Iqbal’s lawyer Allah Bux Laghari told Reuters a pardon was illegal as the court was already hearing an appeal against her sentence.

“We believe it is the court’s duty to evaluate the evidence against her, not individuals, and if she is found innocent, she should be freed,” he said.

Wilders’s anti-Islam film screened in Dutch court

wilders wednesdayThe hate trial of Dutch anti-Islamist politician Geert Wilders, who will have a powerful shadow role in the Dutch government, resumed on Wednesday with a showing of his controversial film that criticises the Koran. (Photo: Geert Wilders (R) in court with his lawyer Bram Moszkowicz (L)  in Amsterdam, October 6, 2010/Marcel Antonisse)

The screening in court of Wilders’s 2008 film “Fitna,” which accuses the Koran of inciting violence, threatened to interrupt the trial for a second time in a week when defence lawyer Bram Moszkowicz objected to comments from presiding judge Jan Moors.

When one complainant said she did not wish to see the film, which accuses the Koran of inciting violence, Moors said: “I can understand that” — prompting a sharp response from Moszkowicz who said such a remark is simply not allowed. Moors stressed he was not expressing any judgement over the film.

France charges man for burning, urinating on Koran

koran (Photo: Verses in an oversized Koran being copied in Leganon, August 30, 2010/Ali Hashisho)

A blogger who filmed himself burning the Koran and urinating on it to put out the flames is to appear in court in eastern France, charged with incitement to religious hatred, legal sources said on Tuesday.

Threats in September by a Florida preacher to hold a high-profile protest burning of the Koran sparked global outrage among Muslims, and triggered violent protests in Afghanistan in which one protester was shot dead.

In the film, which was posted on the Internet, the 30-year-old blogger from Bischheim near Strasbourg is seen sitting in his living room wearing a devil’s mask and tearing pages out of a copy of the Koran to make paper airplanes.

Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Wilders challenges judges at hate speech trial

wilders trial (Photo: Geert Wilders (C) at his trial in Amsterdam, 4 Oct 2010/Marcel Antonisse)

Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, a key player in efforts to form a new government, has accused judges trying him on charges of inciting hatred of scandalous bias and demanded they be replaced.

Wilders, who has 24-hour police guard because of death threats, went on trial Monday over comments including a comparison he made between the Islamic faith and Nazism.

“I have said what I have said and I will not take one word back, but that doesn’t mean I’ve said everything attributed to me,” Wilders said before invoking his right to remain silent. That stance prompted the presiding judge to say that Wilders had been accused by others of making statements while avoiding debate and that it appeared he was doing the same in court.