Abu Hamza was 'mouthpiece' for 1998 Yemen kidnappings group

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri has denied being involved in the 1998 abduction of 16 Western tourists in Yemen, telling a jury he acted as "a mouthpiece" for the kidnap group.

Giving evidence for a third day in New York, Abu Hamza said he had provided the kidnappers with a satellite phone but said he had not known of the plot.

Abu Hamza, 56, likened himself to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

He denies 11 kidnapping and terror counts, including the 1998 abductions.

The Egyptian-born preacher was asked about his alleged involvement in the December 1998 abduction of 12 Britons, two Americans and two Australians in southern Yemen.

Four of the tourists were killed by the captors.

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Tensions rise between Uighurs and Chinese amid fears of new attacks

By Edward Barbour-Lacey

A vehicle from the Chinese police special tactical unit guards the sidewalk near the site of an attack near Beijing's Forbidden City last year. Pic: AP.

Tensions remain high in China following a spate of attacks linked to Muslim Uighur extremists, prompting Chinese authorities to increase security on the streets of capital Beijing.

The most recent suicide attack by suspected Uighur separatists occurred at a train station in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, and killed three people and injured 79 more.  The two bombers were also killed in the explosion.

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Pakistan 'blasphemy lawyer' shot dead in Multan office

Gunmen in the Pakistani city of Multan have shot dead a lawyer defending a university lecturer accused of blasphemy, police and officials say.

Police said that Rashid Rehman was sitting in his office when he was shot. Two of his assistants were injured.

Allegations of blasphemy against Islam are taken very seriously in Pakistan.

Critics argue that blasphemy laws are frequently misused to settle personal scores and that members of minority groups are often unfairly targeted.

Senior police official Zulfiqar Ali told AFP news agency that Mr Rehman died amid "indiscriminate firing" in his office on Wednesday evening.

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'I will sell them,' Boko Haram leader says of kidnapped Nigerian girls

 (CNN) -- Fears for the fate of more than 200 Nigerian girls turned even more nightmarish Monday when the leader of the Islamist militant group that kidnapped them announced plans to sell them.

"I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah," a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video first obtained by Agence France-Presse.

"There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women," he continued, according to a CNN translation from the local Hausa language.

Boko Haram is a terrorist group receiving training from al Qaeda affiliates, according to U.S. officials. Its name means "Western education is sin." In his nearly hourlong, rambling video, Shekau repeatedly called for Western education to end.

"Girls, you should go and get married," he said.

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Dutch Muslim rapper: ‘I hate Jews more than Hitler,’ ‘don’t shake hands with f**gots’

He calls himself Ismo. His real name is Ismael Houllich, but you’ll probably think of a more fitting name for him after you hear about his “music.” The Blaze writes that one of his songs (titled “Eenmans,” or “One Man’s”) contains the lyrics “I hate those f**king Jews more than the Nazis,” “don’t shake hands with f**gots,” and “don’t believe in anything but the Quran.”

The news service Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reports that Dutch police are investigating after a gay citizen filed a complaint that the lyrics incite hatred.

The Netherlands news site Algemeen Dagblad reported on Friday that a 19-year-old resident of the city in which the video clip was filmed named Lars Hobma filed the police complaint which prompted the investigation.

So what does Ismo have to say for himself? He insists it is a bad rap (pun intended). From a statement he released to the regional radio station Omroep Brabant:

They are trying to twist my words against me. I don’t hate all Jews. I hate only Zionist Jews that made Palestine smaller than my neighborhood.

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Major New Survey Explores the Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States

Washington, May 7, 2014 — Although most Hispanics in the United States continue to belong to the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic share of the Hispanic population is declining, while rising numbers of Hispanics say they are Protestant or unaffiliated with any religion. Indeed, nearly one-in-four Hispanic adults (24%) are now former Catholics, according to a major, nationwide survey of more than 5,000 Hispanics by the Pew Research Center.

Together, these trends suggest that some religious polarization is taking place among U.S. Latinos – the nation’s largest minority group – with the shrinking majority of Hispanic Catholics holding the middle ground between two growing groups, evangelical Protestants and the unaffiliated, that are at opposite ends of the U.S. religious spectrum.

The Pew Research Center’s 2013 National Survey of Latinos and Religion finds that a majority (55%) of the nation’s estimated 35.4 million Latino adults – or about 19.6 million Latinos – identify as Catholic today.  About 22% are Protestant (including 16% who describe themselves as born-again or evangelical) and 18% are religiously unaffiliated.

The share of Hispanics who are Catholic likely has been in decline for at least the last few decades. But as recently as 2010, Pew Research polling found that fully two-thirds of Hispanics (67%) were Catholic. That means the Catholic share has dropped by 12 percentage points in just the last four years.

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Boko Haram abducts more girls, claim they are following God’s instructions

Boko Haram abducts more girls, claim they are following God’s instructions

WRITTEN BY JO STEPHANIE, AAI NEWS TEAM

More than three weeks ago the Islamist group Boko Haram abducted around 276 girls, ages 16-18, from their boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria. However reprehensible these abductions are, they are not surprising. The group has bombed many buildings including churches and mosques and they’ve kidnapped women and children in the past. In the first three months of 2014 they had already killed 1,500 people.

A year ago Boko Haram warned it would begin abducting girls and selling them off – a warning which the Nigerian government did not take seriously. Perhaps emboldened by the slow and inefficient response to the abduction of well over 200 girls, on Sunday Boko Haram abducted another eleven girls aged 12-15 from Warabe, a village in Borno state.  

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Hate speeches in India expose Hindu nationalism's violent and fascist agenda

Indian American coalition calls on India's Election Commission to take decisive action; urges Hindu American Foundation to condemn hate speeches

Maryland, USA (April 22, 2014): The Coalition Against Genocide (CAG) today condemned statements by senior leaders of Hindu nationalist organizations, collectively known as the Sangh Parivar, openly inciting people to violence against religious minorities. These leaders also claimed that all Indians who are opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will be driven out of India into neighboring Pakistan after the ongoing parliamentary elections.

Hindu nationalism, also known as Hindutva, is a supremacist ideology that aims to establish a theocratic Hindu state in India. It is different from the religion of Hinduism which espouses pluralist traditions. The founding fathers of Hindutva visited Mossoulini's Italy to study Fascism and borrowed the concept of religious nationalism from Fascism and Nazism.

In a clear manifestation of the outlines of fascism driving the Hindutva supremacist movement, four senior Hindutva leaders - two from the BJP, another from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and the fourth from the Shiv Sena, unambiguously stated their position with regard to the fate of Modi's critics and that of India's 200 million religious minorities.

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Secularism — the BJP’s greatest enemy

The BJP, in political terms, is not a political organisation; it is a socio-religious platform devoted to the promotion of Hindu culture and religion

The largest democracy in the world is at work again. Over 845 million voters are exercising their right of franchise one more time. The electoral exercise will continue till May 9. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by the Indian National Congress, and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are the major contenders for power. Congress has been in power many times since India gained independence. Over this period it lost some popular support and leaned on regional parties to help rule the country. When support from regional parties plummeted in 1998, a coalition led by the BJP emerged as the stronger and came to power in New Delhi that year. Its victory sparked a wave of anxiety amongst Muslims in India. Neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan and Bangladesh, felt concerned about their bilateral relations with India. The BJP is now poised to come to power again.

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From jail to jihad? The threat of prison radicalisation

By Raphael Rowe

Mikaeel Ibrahim (centre) was met at Manchester Prison by Mizanur Rahman (left) and Abdul Muhid (right)

The head of the prison and probation service says there is a small but "significant risk" of Muslim prisoners becoming radicalised. Panorama spoke to one convict who was met by Islamic extremists when he was released from prison.

Michael Coe went into prison as a gangster and left as Mikaeel Ibrahim, a convert to Islam.

In 2006 he had been jailed for eight years after threatening police officers with a shotgun while on parole for a knifepoint carjacking.

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Embrace of Atheism Put an Indonesian in Prison

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Growing up in a conservative Muslim household in rural West Sumatra, Alexander Aan hid a dark secret beginning at age 9: He did not believe in God. His feelings only hardened as he got older and he faked his way through daily prayers, Islamic holidays and the fasting month of Ramadan.

He stopped praying in 2008, when he was 26, and he finally told his parents and three younger siblings that he was an atheist — a rare revelation in a country like Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. They responded with disappointment and expressions of hope that he would return to Islam.

But Mr. Aan neither returned to Islam nor confined his secret to his family, and he ended up in prison after running afoul of a 2008 law restricting electronic communications. He had joined an atheist Facebook group started by Indonesians living in the Netherlands, and in 2011 he began posting commentaries outlining why he did not think God existed.

“When I saw, with my own eyes, poor people, people on television caught up in war, people who were hungry or ill, it made me uncomfortable,” Mr. Aan, now 32, said in an interview. “What is the meaning of this? As a Muslim, I had questioned God — what is the meaning of God?” He was released on parole on Jan. 27 after serving more than 19 months on a charge of inciting religious hatred.

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Saudi blogger Raif Badawi gets 10 year jail sentence

A Saudi court has imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi for 10 years for "insulting Islam" and setting up a liberal web forum, local media report.

He was also sentenced to 1,000 lashes and ordered to pay a fine of 1 million riyals ($266,000; £133,000).

Amnesty International called the verdict "outrageous" and urged the authorities to quash the verdict.

Mr Badawi, the co-founder of a website called the Liberal Saudi Network, was arrested in 2012.

A Saudi newspaper close to the government reported that he had lost his appeal against an earlier, more lenient sentence of seven years and three months in jail and 600 lashes.

Last year he was cleared of apostasy, which could have carried a death sentence.

AAI also start a petition against Rescind Saudi Laws Designating Atheists as "Terrorists"

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Vatican admits to handling 3,400 cases of child abuse by priests since 2004

The Vatican revealed for the first time the extent of the child abuse issues that have plagued the Catholic church over the last decade during an interrogation by the UN Committee against Torture (CAT).

The Holy See’s permanent observer to the UN in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told the committee that the Vatican had defrocked 848 priests who were believed to have raped or molested children, and sanctioned a further 2,572 priests for lesser offences since 2004.

According to the AP, Tomasi also admitted that the Vatican only explicitly ordered bishops to report credible accusations of child abuse to the police as well as forward the cases to Rome for review, after finding that bishops would shuffle ‘problem’ priests between dioceses rather than imposing a church trial. However, he said that now there was a total commitment by the Vatican to clean house and prevent future abuse.

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The Phobia of Being Called Islamophobic

By: Ali A. Rizvi  Pakistani-Canadian writer, physician and musician

As of this writing, the National September 11 Memorial Museum still hasn't caved in. But the pressure is building, and it feels very familiar.

The problem is a seven-minute film being shown at the soon-to-open museum calledThe Rise of Al Qaeda. Narrated by NBC's Brian Williams, it uses words like "Islamist," "Islamic," and "jihad" in reference to the 9/11 hijackers and their motives.

Some Muslim groups, and others like the Interfaith Center of New York, want the film edited to remove those terms. They don't want the public to think that Islamism or jihad had anything to do with Al Qaeda or the 9/11 attacks, because that could foster "Islamophobia." We've so been down this road before.

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UGANDAN CATHOLIC EASTER MESSAGE CALLS FOR GENOCIDE OF GAYS

CATHOLIC CHURCH MESSAGE IN UGANDA -  blessings to all Christians who have been working so hard to make Jinja a land free of gay persons

by Melanie Nathan, April 20, 2014.

The Bishop of the Jinja Diocese of the Catholic Church, Bishop Rt. Rev. Fr. Charles Wamika, in today’s Easter Message  delivered at St. Chalres Lwanga Catholic Church, praised the Members of Parliament for the Anti-Homosexuality Act that provides life in prison for gay (LGBTI) people in Uganda. The Bishop called for a blessing for Uganda’s Christians who worked so hard to ‘free the land of gays.’  The Bishope also asked for parents to hand over their gay children to authorities, so they would be rewarded in heaven. I would call that a statement praising and calling for a genocide.

 Since the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people have gone into hiding. The law, which institutionalizes homophobia and affirms the persecution of LGBTI people, has been held in esteem, the highest reverence and praised by Christian leadership in Uganda, to the point of holding rallies to reward parliamentarians and the President, Yoweri Museveni. The Ugandan Churches and Christian community, (except for a handful, who have been banished and shamed for their compassionate and affirming stance,) have led the assault against gays.

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'I have to help the people of Bangladesh'

Asif Mohiuddin is one of Bangladesh's most famous bloggers. As an open atheist in a mainly Islamic country, he has been attacked and thrown in jail for his beliefs. DW caught up with him after his recent move to Germany.

 In addition to being an active blogger, Asif Mohiuddin co-founded the Shahbag movement in Bangladesh, which has been arguing for the strict division of state and religion in the country, as well as justice for victims of Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence.

Mohiuddin recently arrived in Germany on a one-year scholarship. He says that living in Germany now means he can walk the streets safely. But still, he says, he has to keep his location secret.

DW: What did you write on your blog that was so offensive? Can you give us examples of what it might be that Islamists found so blasphemous?

Asif Mohiuddin: I wrote a blog entry about women's rights which caused problems. In the Koran, Chapter 4, Verse 34, it says that a man can beat his wife, if she doesn't obey her husband. I criticized that because in modern civilization there is no place for hitting anybody. Also, according to Sharia law, if someone leaves Islam, then that person has to be killed. I don't think that is a good thing, so I criticized that. And that is why people got angry.

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Religious people invited to Turkey’s first atheism association

The top official of the first ever Atheism Association founded in Turkey has invited religious people to become members too, ruling out atheist proselytizing.

Tolga İnci, interim chair of the association based in Istanbul’s Kadıköy neighborhood, told daily Hürriyet that they had 11 founders and 90 supporting members so far. He said their doors “are open to everybody.”

“You don’t have to be an atheist to come. Anybody who understands and accepts the charter of our association can become a member. Even religious people should come and see what kind of people atheists are,” İnci said, stressing that his association would not get involved in politics. 

In an interview with daily Agos last month, the founders had said their main goal would be providing legal support to people facing problems as atheists in Turkey.

Speaking to Hürriyet, İnci said they also “wanted to be understood.” 

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