FaithWorld

FACTBOX – Lashkar-e-Taiba charity wing in Pakistan flood relief work

dawaThe Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the humanitarian wing of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, has been providing relief to those hit by Pakistan’s floods.

It is operating in flood-hit areas under a different name, the Falah-e-Insaniyat, after the JuD was blacklisted by the United Nations following the November 2008 attack on Mumbai, which was blamed on the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Pakistan has said  it will clamp down on charities linked to Islamist militants amid fears their involvement in flood relief could exploit anger against the government and undermine the fight against groups like the Taliban.

United States Agency for International Development head Rajiv Shah toured a camp run by the Falah-e-Insaniyat on Wednesday.

Click here for some details about the overall group that, despite denials from its founders, is widely believed to continue to operate as a cohesive whole. (Photo: Supporters of Jamaat-ud-Dawa protest in Karachi on December 13, 2008 after Pakistan shut offices and arrested scores of activists of the Islamic charity as international pressure mounted for firm action against militants blamed for the Mumbai attacks/Athar Hussain)

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Pakistan to clamp down on Islamist militant charities in flood areas

sukkur food line (Photo: Flood victims wait for food handouts in a relief camp in Sukkur, August 20, 2010/Akhtar Soomro)

Pakistan has said  it will clamp down on charities linked to Islamist militants amid fears their involvement in flood relief could exploit anger against the government and undermine the fight against groups like the Taliban.  Islamist charities have moved swiftly to fill the vacuum left by a government overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster and struggling to reach millions of people in dire need of shelter, food and drinking water.

It would not be the first time the government has announced restrictions against charities tied to militant groups, but critics say banned organisations often re-emerge with new names and authorities are not serious about stopping them.

“The banned organisations are not allowed to visit flood-hit areas,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters on Friday. “We will arrest members of banned organisations collecting funds and will try them under the Anti-Terrorism Act.” More than 4 million Pakistanis have been made homeless by nearly three weeks of floods, making urgent the critical task of securing enough aid.

Afghan archaeologists find Buddhist site as war rages

bamyanArchaeologists in Afghanistan, where Taliban Islamists are fighting the Western-backed government, have uncovered Buddhist-era remains in an area south of Kabul, an official said on Tuesday.  “There is a temple, stupas, beautiful rooms, big and small statues, two with the length of seven and nine meters, colorful frescos ornamented with gold and some coins,” said Mohammad Nader Rasouli, head of the Afghan Archaeological Department. (Photo: 1997 file photo of a 55-metre-high Buddha statue in Bamyan destroyed by the Taliban in 2001/Muzammil Pasha)

“Some of the relics date back to the fifth century (AD). We have come across signs that there are items maybe going back to the era before Christ or prehistory,” he said.  “We need foreign assistance to preserve these and their expertise to help us with further excavations.”

Government and foreign troops are battling an insurgency led by the radical Taliban movement which destroyed Buddhist statues at Bamyan during its five-year control of the mountainous country from 1996 to 2001, viewing the monuments as an affront to Islam.

Hardline Islam steps out of the shadows in Algeria

algeria salafi (Photo: Books by ultra-conservative Salafis are increasingly available in Algeria, 2 August 2010/Louafi Larbi)

In a bookshop in an eastern suburb of the Algerian capital, visitors can stroll in off the street and pick up titles such as “Our fight against the West,” and “Jihad according to Salafist principles.”

After years of keeping a low public profile, Algerian Salafists — followers of an ultra-conservative brand of Islam — are becoming bolder, laying down a challenge to a state that is firmly secular and fighting a lingering Islamist insurgency.

Most Salafists in Algeria have never been involved in the violent conflict that convulsed the country from the early 1990s, and in fact many cooperated with the government to persuade the insurgents to lay down their arms.

Russia’s Muslim south triples sharia bride price as Islamic law advances

brideThe pricetag on a bride in Russia’s Ingushetia province has been tripled by the regional government, in a sign the Muslim North Caucasus region is slipping out of Kremlin control as sharia eclipses Russian law.

Against the backdrop of a bubbling Islamist insurgency, the revival of Islam in the North Caucasus following the break-up of the Soviet Union almost 20 years ago has brought sharia law to the region, revered by both rebels and ordinary citizens alike. ((Photo: Zalikhan, 16, going to her wedding in a Chechen refugee camp in  Ingushetia, August 7, 2000/stringer)

The issue of the ‘kalym’, a price paid by a groom to the family of the woman he chooses to marry, is the latest example of a broader trend that has troubled the Kremlin.

Indonesia’s Islamist party: hijabs, uniforms and a Hitler tweet

Jakarta’s Ritz Carlton hotel this weekend was a sea of brightly coloured Islamic headscarves and the crisp white uniforms of the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the third biggest party in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s cabinet. PKS held their national congress at the luxury hotel

, the site of a deadly July 2009 bomb attack perpetrated by Islamist militants,

and the topic on everyone’s lips was how to broaden the party’s appeal and shake off their image as hardliners.

CORRECTION: This post originally identified this Ritz Carlton as the site of the 2009 bombing, which occured at a different Ritz Carlton location.

In season of optimism, Kashmiri Hindus dream of returning home

kashmirTwo decades after they were forced to flee Kashmir, thousands of Hindu Pandits seek to return to their ancestral homeland, their hopes lifted by a fall in Islamist rebel attacks against New Delhi’s rule. (Photo: Kashmiri Pandits perform prayers during an annual Hindu festival at a shrine in Khirbhawani, June 19, 2010/Danish Ismail)

Exiled Pandits gathered Saturday by the green chinar trees and sparkling streams at the Khirbhawani shrine for an annual festival, chanting hymns to the goddess of peace who is the deity in this holy spot 30 km east of Srinagar.

“My motherland is regaining its peace and beauty, I can feel it. I feel the time has come to return and live here with Muslim brethren,” 52-year-old Ravinder Sadhu, a migrant who lives with his family in the western Indian city of Pune, told Reuters.

Indonesian Islamist PKS party aims for broader support

pksIndonesia’s Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) is holding its second national congress in Jakarta this week where it will discuss key policies.  The Islamist party is the third-biggest in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s coalition, and lifted its share of the vote in the 2009 elections when most Islam-based parties lost support.

The PKS believes religious values should be reflected in social policy to address what it sees as Indonesia’s moral crisis. Its former president, Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring, has campaigned hard for tighter Internet controls to ban what he describes as “negative” content on the web, and last year said natural disasters such as earthquakes were linked to immoral television shows.

(Photo: PKS supporters hold pro-Palestinian rally in Jakarta on 20 March 2010/Supri)

New Turkish opposition party leader sacks secularist old guard

istanbul

Istanbul, 24 May 2008/Tom Heneghan

Turkey’s new opposition leader has purged key hardline secularists and set a tentative reformist course in a bid to regain ground lost to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party government, which critics accuse of secretly pursuing an Islamic state.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a 62-year former civil servant, was elected chairman on Saturday following the resignation of veteran party leader Deniz Baykal over a sex tape scandal. The CHP delegates elected the new party assembly on Sunday.

While courting the more militant secularist elite, the CHP has lost support among urban, middle-class voters by firmly resisting AK’s European Union-inspired reform steps to pare back army influence and liberalise the economy. The CHP has vigorously opposed moves by AK, which denies Islamist ambitions, to reform a constitution born of a 1980 military coup.

Out with the old? Turkish secularists seek new vision and leader

chp

Republican People's Party (CHP) congress with portrait of Kemal Kilicdaroglu in Ankara May 22, 2010/Umit Bektas

Turkey’s secular opposition is expected to choose a new, younger leader this weekend at a congress that will usher out an old guard who had posed little threat to the Islamist-leaning ruling party’s hold on power.  The Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s oldest party and the voice of the secularist elite, is seeking a makeover in the hope of stopping Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan from winning a third consecutive term in an election due next year.

Having been trounced by Erdogan’s AK Party — which has its roots in political Islam — in the last two general elections, CHP delegates will meet Saturday and Sunday in Ankara, where they are widely expected to choose Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a moderate, as new chairman, party insiders say.