News & Current Affairs

September 13, 2008

Saudi judge condemns ‘immoral TV’

Saudi judge condemns ‘immoral TV’

Map

The most senior judge in Saudi Arabia has said it is permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV channels which broadcast immoral programs.

Sheikh Salih Ibn al-Luhaydan said some “evil” entertainment programs aired by the channels promoted debauchery.

Dozens of satellite television channels broadcast across the Middle East, where they are watched by millions of Arabs every day.

The judge made the comments on a state radio program.

He was speaking in response to a listener who asked his opinion on the airing of programs featuring scantily-dressed women during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“There is no doubt that these programs are a great evil, and the owners of these channels are as guilty as those who watch them,” said the sheikh.

“It is legitimate to kill those who call for corruption if their evil can not be stopped by other penalties.”

Royal dilemma

Given his position as the country’s most senior judge, the sheikh’s views can not be easily dismissed.

Clerics like Sheikh al-Luhaydan represent a huge dilemma for the Saudi royal family, our correspondent adds.

On the one hand, Saudi rulers need their support to claim that they rule in the name of Islam.

But on the other hand, fighting militant Islam can be difficult when the country’s top judge calls for the beheading of those he views as immoral broadcasters.

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September 7, 2008

Anger over ‘Ramadan’ trial delay

Anger over ‘Ramadan’ trial delay

Muslims pray during Ramadan

Ramadan is a holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims

A row has broken out in France after a court postponed a trial, apparently because it was to take place during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

Critics say the decision is a breach of France’s strict separation of religion and state.

The trial of seven men for armed robbery was due to start on 16 September in Rennes.

But last week the court agreed to a request from a lawyer for one of the accused to put it off until January.

In his letter asking for the delay, the lawyer noted that if the trial were to start now, it would fall in the Muslim month of Ramadan.

His client, a Muslim, would have been fasting for two weeks and thus, he said, be in no position to defend himself properly.

He would be physically weakened and too tired to follow the arguments as he should.

Knife wound

The court’s agreement to postpone the trial has now triggered an outraged response from campaigning groups and politicians of both left and right, who see it as a worrying new incursion by religion into the institutions of the French state.

The government’s Minister for Urban Affairs, Fadela Amara, herself a Muslim, said it was a “knife wound” in the principle of a secular republic, and she compared it to another controversial decision earlier this year, in which a judge agreed to annul a marriage between two Muslims because the wife had lied about her virginity.

The far right leader, Jean-Marie le Pen, for his part, said the French justice system had reached a new low.

The row has forced the Rennes prosecutor to issue a denial that Ramadan was the reason for the postponement.

But this has not convinced lawyers, who note that all the other reasons previously put forward as arguments for a delay had already been declared inadmissible.

September 3, 2008

Pakistan PM’s motorcade attacked

Pakistan PM’s motorcade attacked

Shots have been fired at the motorcade of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, although it is not clear if he was in the convoy at the time.

Two bullets from an unidentified gunman hit the PM’s car as he was traveling from Islamabad airport into the city, his press secretary told.

But security officials say the car was on its way to collect Mr Gilani.

Mr Gilani’s government is grappling with a growing threat from militants in the country.

It is not clear who fired the shots but Islamist militants based in Pakistan’s border regions have threatened to kill various government ministers, and have carried out deadly suicide bombings against army and government targets.

The incident represents a major lapse in security. In December former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed at an election rally in Rawalpindi.

Shattered glass

“I can confirm the prime minister’s convoy was fired upon while returning from [Islamabad] airport,” his press secretary Zahid Bashir told.

Bullet marks

Two bullets struck the window of one of the front doors

“The prime minister was coming back from Lahore. The firing took place on the Islamabad highway. At this point, we believe the firing was from a small hill on the roadside.”

A statement issued by the prime minister’s office said: “Of the multiple sniper shots fired on the prime minister’s vehicle, two hit the window on the driver’s side.

“However, because of the robust and comprehensive security measures, the prime minister and all the members of his motorcade remained unharmed.”

Television pictures showed the shattered glass of the driver’s door.

Officials say another car in the convoy was also hit by several bullets. There are no reports of injuries.

However, there was confusion when the interior ministry gave a different account of the incident, saying that Mr Gilani was not in the car at the time of the attack.

The government information minister, Sherry Rehman, supported that account: “The convoy was going to receive the prime minister,” she told state TV. “Those who had designs, have failed.”

Mr Gilani had been in Lahore to canvass support for Asif Zardari, Ms Bhutto’s widower, ahead of presidential elections on Saturday.

Ms Bhutto had been favorite to win Pakistan’s general elections and become prime minister for a third time before she was killed on 27 December. The elections were subsequently postponed until February.

Her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) emerged as the winners and formed a coalition with the PML-N party of another former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. Mr Gilani, himself a senior PPP member, became prime minister

The coalition broke up amid political acrimony late last month.

Confident

One of the biggest challenges facing Mr Gilani’s government comes from Islamist militants who control large areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Gilani

Mr Gilani became prime minister after February’s elections

The army has been engaged in a major operation in recent weeks in the district of Bajaur which is estimated to have displaced up to 300,000 local people.

This week the government said the Bajaur operation would be suspended during the holy month of Ramadan.

Last year militants grew increasingly confident and carried out a series of attacks in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, the country’s main garrison town.

And last month a double suicide attack at a munitions factory in the town of Wah in Punjab province left nearly 70 people dead.

The loose alliance of militants that calls itself the Pakistan Taleban claimed responsibility for the Wah incident, the heaviest attack on a military installation by a militant group in the country’s history.

Mr Gilani’s PPP and Mr Sharif’s PML-N have spent much of their time since February arguing over issues such as the power of the presidency and the reinstatement of judges sacked by former President Pervez Musharraf.

During that time the economy has taken a further battering, with the Pakistani rupee falling to an all-time low, while food and fuel prices have risen sharply.

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