FaithWorld

Nigeria arrests 100 suspected members of violent Islamist sect Boko Haram

(Shattered remnants at the site of a bomb blast at a bar in the Nigerian northeastern city of Maiduguri that killed five people and injured 10 more in the latest apparent attack by Boko Haram, July 3, 2011/Stringer)

Nigeria’s state security service (SSS) has arrested more than 100 suspected members of radical Islamist sect Boko Haram and had foiled a spate of attempted bombings in the past month and a half. Guerrilla attacks on police stations and assassinations by gunmen on motorbikes have killed more than 150 people since the start of the year in the remote northeastern state of Borno. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for much of the violence.

Insecurity in parts of northern Nigeria has rapidly replaced militant attacks on oil infrastructure hundreds of kilometres away in the southern Niger Delta as the main security risk in Africa’s most populous nation in recent months.

“Successful security operations have led to the arrest of some identified key cell commanders and members of the dissident group in Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Kano, Yobe and Adamawa,” the SSS said in a statement on Monday, referring to six northern states.

The sect said it was behind a car bomb last month outside the national police headquarters in the capital Abuja and there are fears that it will increasingly trying to operate beyond its home region if not brought under control.

Turkish PM raps France for face veil ban, militants online urge punishment for Paris

(Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, April 13, 2011. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)

(Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, April 13, 2011/Vincent Kessler)

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused France of violating the freedom of religion on Wednesday after Paris began enforcing a law barring Muslim women from wearing full face veils in public. He told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that Turkey was the only Muslim country that had copied the French law on secularism, or separating church and state.

“It’s quite ironic to see that secularism is today under debate in Europe and is undermining certain freedoms,” he said. “Today in France, there is no respect for individual religious freedom,” he said. The Strasbourg-based Council of Europe monitors human rights across the continent. Read the full story here.

Sacred Shi’ite ritual tests Pakistan’s security resolve

ashura (Photo: Shi’ite men at an Ashura procession in Peshawar, January 19, 2008/Ali Imam)

Pakistan is deploying tens of thousands of paramilitary soldiers and police ahead of a religious festival that could be a major security test for authorities struggling to contain militant violence. Many of Pakistan’s minority Shi’ite Muslims, who make up 15 percent of the population, will be vulnerable to suicide bombings when they stage large rallies Friday to mark Ashura, the biggest event in their calendar.

Highlighting concerns, paramilitary forces carry people away on stretchers in mock exercises televised live. Officials say army soldiers will be on standby. Recent suicide bombings carried out in defiance of a series of military offensives which the government describe as successful highlighted U.S. ally Pakistan’s instability.

“Ashura is going to be very tense. There is a danger of terrorists trying to attack processions. We are taking all possible measures to avert that,” a senior security official said.

Book Talk: UK Muslim author seeks roots of militancy

malikThe prominence of Britain’s Muslim minority in the nation’s debate about security and social cohesion provides the backdrop to journalist Zaiba Malik‘s memoir of growing up a British Muslim of Pakistani descent.

“We Are A Muslim, Please” tells how she was raised by first generation immigrant parents in the run-down former industrial center of the northern English city of Bradford in a tradition of conservative piety. (Photo: Pakistani-born British journalist Zaiba Malik in Dhaka on November 26, 2002/Rafiqur Rahman)

At the same time she was desperate to fit in at school, an overwhelmingly white British institution, an effort that led to years of excruciating anxiety and moments of low comedy.

Pope visit costs criticized in austerity-hit Spain

Cost to the taxpayer seems to be the latest target for protesters when Pope Benedict comes to town. After a lively debate about the price the public had to pay for his visit to Britain in September, Spanish protesters have picked up the torch with complaints about the estimated 3.7 million to 5 million euros the state will spend on logistics and security for the pope. And this at a time when Spain is burdened with 20 percent unemployment and is struggling to emerge from recession and austerity measures that have slashed public sector wages.

“I think it’s bad, I mean really bad, to spend so much money on a guy who comes, gives a speech, stays an hour and leaves,” said Pedro Barral Gonzalez, 18, in Santiago de Compostela, the city in northwestern Spain that the pope visited on Saturday.

Spending on papal visits is often controversial, and Spanish spending on the 32-hour visit is dwarfed by other recent trips, but it still drew criticism.

Fate of Iraqi Christians will worsen, Catholic experts fear

baghdad church funeral 2 (Photo: Mourners at a 2 Nov 2010 funeral for victims of the attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Church/Saad Shalash)

With al-Qaeda declaring war on Christians in Iraq and no end to political instability in sight, Catholic experts on the Middle East fear the fate of the minority Christian community there will only worsen.

The pessimism followed the bloodiest attack against Iraq’s Christian minority since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Fifty-two hostages and police were killed on Sunday when security forces stormed a church that had been raided by al-Qaeda-linked gunmen.

The bloodbath struck fear deep into the hearts of remaining Iraqi Christians and confirmed some of the worst concerns of a Vatican summit on the Middle East held last month that warned of a continuing exodus of Christians from the lands of the Bible.

Bahrain aims to control vote amid Sunni-Shi’ite tension

bahrainBahrain’s elections on Saturday are unlikely to bring change to an assembly with little clout, but the government is leaving nothing to chance as it tightens security and makes it tougher for majority Shi’ites to vote.

Critics say densely populated Shi’ite areas are not represented in parliament according to their share in Bahrain’s 1.3 million population, and in some cases Shi’ite voters, of whom 300,000 are registered — have been moved to Sunni areas where their votes have less impact. (Photo: Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, December 15, 2009/Stephanie McGehee)

“The types of rules and laws that are passed still favour the Sunni elites over the majority Shi’ite population,” said Theodore Karasik of Dubai’s Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. “The Shi’ites are angered because they want more inclusion in decision-making and they want more jobs in government ministries, but these kinds of legislations don’t come up.”

Indian court says Ayodhya dispute site to be split between Hindus and Muslims

ayodhya 1An Indian court ruled on Thursday that the site of a demolished mosque in Ayodhya would be divided between Hindus and Muslims, in a ruling that could appease both groups in one of the country’s most divisive cases. (Photo: Hindu priests cheer after verdict was announced, 30 Sept 2010/Mukesh Gupta)

The court in Uttar Pradesh also ruled that Hindu idols could stay on the disputed land, lawyers added. The demolition of the 16th century mosque by Hindu mobs in 1992 triggered some of India’s worst riots that killed about 2,000 people. More than 200,000 police fanned out in India on Thursday to guard against any communal violence.

Times Now TV editor Arnab Goswami called it “nobody’s verdict, nobody’s solution,” referring to the fact there was not one clear winner. There were no immediate reports of violence after the ruling.

FBI tells US Mohammed cartoonist to ‘go ghost’ – report

prophet (Photo: Banner at demonstration in Kuala Lumpur against a cartoon of Prophet Mohammed March 26, 2010/Bazuki Muhammad)

A Seattle cartoonist who stirred up a religious storm with a tongue-in-cheek encouragement to draw images of the Muslim prophet Mohammed has gone into hiding after a threat to her safety.

Cartoonist Molly Norris, who published an illustration in April on her website entitled “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” was told by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to “go ghost,” according to Seattle Weekly, where Morris was a regular contributor.

“On the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI,” Norris is “moving, changing her name and essentially wiping away her identity,” a Seattle Weekly report said on Thursday.

Q+A-What’s fuelling insurgency in Thailand’s Malay Muslim south?

Mosque in southern Thailand with Thai flags,

Mosque in southern Thailand with Thai flags,8 Sept 2009/Surapan Boonthanom

Bombs killed one security officer and wounded another in Thailand’s restive deep South on Thursday during a visit by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, underlying the failure of successive governments to tackle a separatist insurgency in the Malay Muslim-dominated region which entered its sixth year on Monday with a death toll of nearly 4,000.

The current leaders of the insurgency are unknown. The authorities have long suspected prominent local politicians, religious leaders and Islamic teachers of involvement.

Despite reports of links to radical Islamists or a global jihadi movement, there is no evidence to suggest the conflict is anything more than a localised, ethno-nationalist struggle.  However, aggressive crackdowns, any extrajudicial killings by security forces and the perceived oppression of Muslims could attract involvement by militant Islamic networks such as al Qaeda, leading to an escalation in and beyond the region.