Freedom of expression: Lars Vilks on Canada, US trip

Mohammed drawn as a dog by L. Vilks.
Lars Vilks, a conceptual artist from Sweden with a $100,000 bounty on his head, could be found secreted away in a room at the Rittenhouse Hotel Thursday morning, receiving carefully screened visitors from the media.
Vilks is on a weeklong tour of the United States and Canada, speaking about freedom of expression. He had been scheduled to hold forth at the Union League Thursday, but late Wednesday, the event was abruptly called off.
Craig Snider, a Union League member who was hosting the speaker, said that after he realized the visit would require extraordinary security measures to protect Vilks, his associates, and anyone in attendance, “I voluntarily canceled it. I was not prepared to ask the league to take that kind of risk.”
Instead, he invited members of the local media to interview Vilks at the Rittenhouse.
The artist’s appearance in Ottawa was also called off, but, as of Thursday, stops in Toronto and Boston were still scheduled.
He says he has no regrets after drawing a series of sketches of Mohammed as a dog. But there is a fatwa who offers $150,000 if he is killed with a knife and $100,000 if any other method to kill him is used.

India: Muslims protest Adyodhya mosque verdict

An Indian court has ruled that a disputed site sacred to Hindus and Muslims should be divided between the two faiths, in a bid to forge a compromise and end a historic battle that has triggered modern India’s most deadly religious clashes.
…In their ruling, the judges ordered the site – now controlled by the government – to be divided, with two thirds, including the spot where Hindu idols now stand, going to Hindu groups and one-third to the Muslim community.
Explaining the decision, one judge said the site was the birthplace of Lord Ram “as per the faith and belief of Hindus”, and another said it had an “almost unprecedented” tradition of Hindu worship inside the mosque compound.
Muslims are not satisfied with the verdict:
Indian Muslim clerics and leaders rallied on Friday against a court ruling over a disputed religious site that largely favored Hindus, raising fears of further alienation of the minority community.
Muslim groups said reaction was also measured because they still hoped to appeal in Supreme Court and rebuild the mosque.

Indonesia: "Homosexuality is an abuse of Human Rights", top Muslim body says

From AFP:

Indonesia’s top Islamic body said Friday homosexuality is an abuse of human rights and demanded the government ban an ongoing gay and lesbian film festival. (yes, you have read correctly…).

It also condemned foreign cultural centres for showing the films at private screenings, three days after angry Muslims held protests outside the venues.

We reject the screening of the films which contain gay and homosexual lives as they are against Islamic and Indonesian cultural values,” Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma’ruf Amin said.

The foreign representatives including the German and French cultural centres must show their respect for our sovereignty. They should not bring their culture which goes against our local values,” he said.

And some “hardliners” have come to suport this “body“. From AFP:

Dozens of Islamic hard-liners protested against an international gay film festival in Indonesia’s capital Tuesday, forcing the cancellation of several screenings. 
The Q! Film Festival, being held at foreign cultural centres in Jakarta, opened last week and was slated to run until Wednesday night. In its ninth year, it aims to raise awareness of gay issues. 
Members of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front — some wearing masks, white robes and turbans — chanted anti-gay slogans and said the movies were blasphemous
Showings at the Goethe Institute of Germany, which was being guarded by police, would not be disrupted, said Dinyah Latuconsina, the centre’s program assistant. 
But the French Cultural Center and Japan Foundation decided to halt remaining screenings.

Related: Study finds rising intolerance among Indonesian Muslims @ Jakarta Globe.

Afghanistan: Taliban "earning" more money each day from heroin trade

The Taliban made £65million last year from Afghanistan’s opium trade despite the presence of thousands of British troops, a damning UN report has found.
In a startling indication that the war on poppy growing is having little effect, insurgents are still reaping the benefits despite the loss of life and huge amounts of money being thrown at the problem.
The report for the United Nations ominously warns that the illegal trade will grow even more.
Helmand province, where 9,500 British soldiers are battling the Taliban, produced 53 per cent of the country’s opium, the raw ingredient to make heroin.
The insurgents receive about $100million (£65million) a year from Afghanistan’s illegal opium trade. the report said.
If we add this the money they “ask” (peacefully, of course…) to the contractors in the area, we can understand how they are so well funded.

Iran: Hossein Derakhsan, aka "Hoder", sentenced to 20 years

There were fears he would be condemned to death. But the sentence is still too hard for just speaking his mind. CNN:
An Iranian court has sentenced the so-called “blogfather” of Iran to 19½ years in prison, the semi-official Mashregh news website said Tuesday.
Hossein Derakhshan was “convicted of cooperating with enemy states, making propaganda against the Islamic system of government, promoting small anti-revolutionary groups, managing obscene web sites and insulting Islamic sanctities,” Mashregh reported.
The 35-year-old Canadian-Iranian blogger and activist was also banned from journalistic endeavors and from joining any political parties for five years.
Derakhshan was arrested on November 1, 2008, and is being held at the Evin Prison in Tehran, reported the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Hamed Derakhshan, Hossein Derakhshan’s brother, was shocked when he discovered the news of Hossein Derakhshan’s sentence from an online news report.
It targets exactly freedom of speech and expression. Maybe they are trying to make an example of him by giving him a heavy sentence,” Hamed Derakhshan told CNN.

Bin Laden: AQ leader calls for creation of new relief body to help… Muslims

My Way:

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden called for the creation of a new relief body to help Muslims in an audiotape released Friday, seeking to exploit discontent following this summer’s devastating floods in Pakistan by depicting the region’s governments as uncaring.
It was the third message in recent weeks from al-Qaida figures concerning the massive floods that affected around 20 million people in Pakistan, signaling a concentrated campaign by the terror group to tap into anger over the flooding to rally support.
But while the earlier messages by subordinates were angry, urging followers to rise up, bin Laden took a softer, even humanitarian tone – apparently trying to broaden al-Qaida’s appeal by presenting his group as a problem-solving protector of the poor.
What governments spend on relief work is secondary to what they spend on armies,” bin Laden says on the 11-minute tape titled “Reflections on the Method of Relief Work.”
If governments spent (on relief) only one percent of what is spent on armies, they would change the face of the world for poor people,” he said.

Interesting. Will AQ leader give the money he spents on terrorism to “the poor of the world“? I guess not. If he wouldn’t have “listened to Allah’s calling”, he will be living amid luxury as all the others Saudi multi-millionaires. He’s just exploiting (again) Western leaders’ culpability complex.


Cambodia: mosques radicalised due to foreign "aid",

As they struggled from the wreckage, poor Muslim congregations came to depend on foreign charities for help rebuilding their mosques, whose numbers have risen tenfold to around 250 today, says Bjorn Blengsi, an anthropologist. They also became receptive to imported versions of Islam, which tend to be stricter than the traditionally relaxed local variety. Agnès de Féo, another anthropologist and author of “L’Islam au Cambodge et au Vietnam” says both Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia and Tablighi Jemaat from India are gaining adherents.
Nothing wrong with that, perhaps. Most Islamic charities teach the faith and help the poor. But not, alas, all. In one much-publicised incident in 2002, according to the American government, a local member of the Kuwaiti-based Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS) helped an Indonesian fugitive, Riduan Isamuddin (alias Hambali), the mastermind behind the nightclub bombings in Bali. Hambali, who is now in prison in Guantánamo Bay, reportedly said he had hoped to bomb the American and British embassies in Phnom Penh and to use Cambodia as a base for terrorist operations throughout South-East Asia. RIHS, which has been cleared of links with terrorism by Kuwait’s government, remains active in Cambodia. A local affiliate, the Kuwait-Cambodia Islamic Cultural Training Centre, recently met the president of parliament.
The influence of foreign religious organisations seems to be growing along with rising government loans from Gulf states. These loans include help for rebuilding religious institutions. In January, for example, Cambodia approved an agreement with Kuwait from 2008 in which the oil-rich state promised loans of $546m, mostly for energy and agriculture, and including $5m for new mosques and madrassas (Islamic schools). The only unusual thing about this was that the religious component was revealed. According to Milton Osborne of the Lowy Institute, an Australian think-tank, most aid packages from the Gulf include such a component but do not make it public.

Islam in Cambodia.

Flag: Wikipedia.