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Militants vow jehad against Christians
Dubai, September 18
An Iraqi militant group led by al- Qaida vowed a jehad against the “worshippers of the cross” in response to a recent speech by Pope Benedict on Islam that sparked anger across the Muslim world.

Joint Indo-Pak protest for peace
Lahore, September 18
In what is being described as a first in the history of Indo-Pak relations, social activists from both countries observed a joint daylong fast in front of the Lahore Press Club, in protest against the rigidity of the visa policies of the two countries. They also voiced their protests against nuclear proliferation.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Cuba's leader Fidel Castro in Havana on Sunday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Cuba's leader Fidel Castro in Havana on Sunday. — PTI photo


EARLIER STORIES


Ethnic Iranian is world's first woman space tourist
Moscow, September 18
Iran-born American telecommunications entrepreneur today became the world’s first private woman space tourist as a Russian rocket carrying a US-Russian crew lifted off the Baikonur space centre in former Soviet Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan.

US on brink of electing 1st Muslim to Congress
Keith Ellison’s resounding victory in the Democratic primary election in Minnesota has put the United States of America on the brink of electing its first Muslim member of the Congress. But it has done little to allay Muslims’ concerns about rampant “Islamophobia” in the USA.

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Militants vow jehad against Christians

Dubai, September 18
An Iraqi militant group led by al- Qaida vowed a jehad against the “worshippers of the cross” in response to a recent speech by Pope Benedict on Islam that sparked anger across the Muslim world.

“We tell the worshipper of the cross (the Pope) that you and the West will be defeated, as is the case in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya,” said an Internet statement by the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella group led by Iraq's branch of al-Qaida.

It was posted on Sunday on an Internet site often used by al-Qaida and other militant groups.

Pope Benedict said on Sunday he was deeply sorry Muslims had been offended by his use of a Mediaeval quotation on Islam and violence. The remarks outraged Muslims and triggered protests and attacks on churches in several Arab towns.

Another militant group in Iraq, Ansar al-Sunnah, also vowed to fight Christians in retaliation. “You will only see our swords until you go back to God's true faith Islam,” it said in a separate Internet statement.

Al-Qaida in Iraq and other militant groups have staged suicide bombings and killings of foreign forces and members of the US-allied government and security forces.

A day after Pope Benedict XVI apologised over his remarks against Islam, Muslim leader Anjem Choudary told a demonstration in London that the Pope should face execution for his comments.

“Those who insulted Islam should be subject to capital punishment,” he told demonstrators who were protesting outside Westminster Cathedral.

He said, “Muslims take their religion very seriously and non-Muslims must appreciate their religious sentiments and they must also understand that there may be serious consequences if you insult Islam and the Prophet,” he added.

Demonstrators were holding placards attacking, saying that “Pope go to Hell, Trinity of Evil: Western Crusade against Islam”.

However, spokesman of the Scotland Yard said, “We have had no complaints about this. There were around 100 persons at the demonstration. It passed off peacefully and there were no arrests.” Larger Islamic groups in Britain, however, said they accepted the Pope's apology.

Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain said, “The Vatican has moved quickly to deal with the hurt and we accept that. It was something that should never have happened — words of that nature were always likely to cause dismay — and we believe some of the Pope's advisers may have been at fault over his speech.”. — Reuters, UNI

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Joint Indo-Pak protest for peace

Lahore, September 18
In what is being described as a first in the history of Indo-Pak relations, social activists from both countries observed a joint daylong fast in front of the Lahore Press Club, in protest against the rigidity of the visa policies of the two countries. They also voiced their protests against nuclear proliferation.

The fast strike was preceded by the second session of “Second Visa Free South Asia Convention”, organised by the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies in collaboration with Action-Aid Pakistan.

Peace activists from both countries addressed the convention highlighting how wars, war-like situations and nuclear proliferation, were affecting women in the region, especially Afghanistan, Jammu and Kashmir and other war-torn areas.

According to the Daily Times, the social activists sang songs of peace and shouted slogans demanding nuclear disarmament in the subcontinent, a visa-free travel policy for the region and the withdrawal of armed forces from Jammu and Kashmir. They said there would be tangible progress in South Asia only when the two countries set aside their differences and allowed for greater people-to-people contact, ended the arms race.

The Indian delegates said that throughout history, at no point had weaponry guaranteed the security of a state or a people, and that mutual trust and friendship were more effective. — ANI

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Ethnic Iranian is world's first woman space tourist

Moscow, September 18
Iran-born American telecommunications entrepreneur today became the world’s first private woman space tourist as a Russian rocket carrying a US-Russian crew lifted off the Baikonur space centre in former Soviet Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan.

Anousheh Ansari(40), paid US$ 20 million for space ride ticket to spend ten days at the International Space Station (ISS).

“The lift-off took place at 8.09 am Moscow time (9.39 am IST),” the Mission Control Centre for the Soyuz TMA-9 situated in Stellar Town Korolyov near here said.

The Russian Soyuz TMA-9 space ferry lifted off in less than 24 hours after the US space shuttle Atlantis undocked from the ISS and began its journey back to Earth.

Nine minutes after lift-off the Soyuz reached its orbit at an altitude of over 200 km.

Ansari is to conduct three experiments— two for the European Space Agency and one for Russia's Energia space corporation. She will return to earth with the crew of the 13th expedition.

She started training at the Gagarin training centre in Russia as a backup for Japanese space tourist Daisuke Enomoto, who failed his medical tests.

The Soyuz TMA-9 space ferry with Ansari, NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin will dock with the ISS on Wednesday. They are due to return to earth on September 29. — PTI

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US on brink of electing 1st Muslim to Congress
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

Keith Ellison’s resounding victory in the Democratic primary election in Minnesota has put the United States of America on the brink of electing its first Muslim member of the Congress. But it has done little to allay Muslims’ concerns about rampant “Islamophobia” in the USA.

Mr Ellison’s triumph is an “evidence that Muslims can succeed in American politics,” Corey Saylor, National Legislative Director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The Tribune.

A two-term state legislator, Mr Ellison is a devout Muslim who prays five times a day and reportedly says he has not eaten pork or had a drink of alcohol since he converted to Islam as a 19-year-old student at Wayne State University in Detroit.

But he seldom refers to his faith. He told the Washington Post recently, “I’m a Muslim. I’m proud to be a Muslim. But I’m not running as a Muslim candidate.”

On September 12, Mr Ellison won a three-way race in Minnesota’s predominantly Democratic Fifth Congressional District, which consists of the Minneapolis side of the Twin Cities and some suburbs. He will face Republican Alan Fine, Independence Party candidate Tammy Lee and Green Party member Jay Pond in November for a seat in the House of Representatives.

“People are yearning for a vision of our country that includes everyone,” Mr Ellison said soon after learning of his victory. Mr Saylor called Mr Ellison’s win “a very positive development reflecting the growing political sophistication and integration of Muslims in America.” CAIR's tax status prohibits it from partisan efforts, however, a number of Muslims did contribute to Mr Ellison’s campaign.

The CAIR official said Mr Ellison, should he win the November election, will be the first Muslim American in the US Congress. Larry Shaw, a state Senator in North Carolina, is currently the highest ranking Muslim in the American political arena.

However, Mr Ellison’s triumph does not signify an end to suspicions on the Muslim community, heightened after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

“Islamophobia is a problem that will be with us in America for a long time,” Mr Saylor said. “As American Muslims become more visible, through events like Ellison’s primary win, tolerance and acceptance will follow.” He described Mr Ellison’s district as “very progressive.”

Mr Saylor finds it encouraging that non-Muslim voters will select a Muslim candidate based on his issue positions.

Mr Ellison is calling for the immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. While President Bush and his Republican Party criticise Democrats’ calls to withdraw as “cutting and running,” he believes the case is simple — no weapons of mass destruction have ever been found in Iraq, and the reasons given to the American public for going to war were based on half truths, faulty intelligence and in some cases, deceit.

“Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the tragedy of September 11. Despite being a brutal dictator, his nation was not a haven for terrorists or suicide bombers before the fateful US decision to invade and occupy. The US invasion and occupation have been large factors in the destabilisation of Iraq, which is now on the brink of open civil war,” he said.

Mr Ellison has not been without his share of controversy.

The sheen of his electoral success has been dimmed somewhat by his past associations with the Nation of Islam and its leader, Louis Farrakhan. The group’s leaders have been accused of being racists, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian.

A conservative blog, PowerLineBlog.com, revealed Mr Ellison had used the names Keith X Ellison and Keith Ellison-Muhammed during his student days. The blog accused him of “involvement” in anti-Semitism.

Mr Ellison has denied he ever joined the Nation of Islam, but acknowledged that he had worked with the group to organise the Minnesota representation at Mr Farrakhan's Million Man March in Washington in 1995.

Mr Saylor believes Mr Ellison has “sufficiently addressed” any concerns about his views on the Nation of Islam.

A similar acceptance is echoed in the Jewish American community. The influential Twin Cities newspaper American Jewish World endorsed Mr Ellison and even compared him to Minnesota's immensely popular late Senator Paul Wellstone. Mr Wellstone was the son of Ukrainian-Jewish immigrant parents.

“We think that Keith Ellison has the attributes to be a dynamic and effective representative in the Congress,” the paper said in its endorsement. “In Ellison, we have a moderate Muslim who extends his hand in friendship to the Jewish community and supports the security of the state of Israel.”

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