Saudi journalist faces death calls after prophet tweets

A young Saudi journalist is facing calls for his execution after tweeting remarks about the Prophet Mohammed, and the kingdom’s top clerics are demanding his trial after denouncing him as an “apostate.”

On the occasion of the Muslim prophet’s birthday last week, 23-year-old Hamza Kashgari tweeted: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you.”

“I will not pray for you,” he added.

The controversial tweet sparked a frenzy of responses — some 30,000, according to an online service that tracks tweets in the Arab world.

In one response, Abdullah, a lawyer, said that since Kashgari was “an adult… we should accept nothing but implementing the ruling according to Islamic law” or sharia.

Insulting the prophet is considered blasphemous in Islam, and is a crime punishable by death.

Kashgari quickly apologised for his remarks, but the calls for his execution only multiplied.

A Facebook page entitled “The Saudi people demand Hamza Kashgari’s execution” already has nearly 10,000 members.

A recent posting thanks the page’s members for their support and calls for more recruits.

“Our page has almost 10,000 members… but we need you to work harder. The prophet deserves more respect,” said one post.

A committee of top clerics in charge of issuing religious edicts in the kingdom issued a statement calling Kashgari “an apostate” and an “infidel,” and demanded that he be tried in an Islamic court.

The statement, released late on Wednesday, said: “Muslim scholars everywhere have agreed that those who insult Allah and his prophet or the (Muslim holy book) Koran or anything in religion are infidels and apostates.”

It is therefore “the duty of our leaders to judge based on sharia law,” which stipulates that an apostate must be sentenced to death, the statement added.

Not all the remarks posted on Kashgari were so harsh.

“Brothers, the man has repented. If the prophet himself was here he would have forgiven him and ended this,” said tweeter Saleh al-Ghamdi.

The incident has shined a spotlight on online social networks.

Sites such as Twitter and Facebook represent a virtual world where Saudis are free to share opinions, ideas and develop relationships, a fact that recently prompted the country’s top cleric to denounce them as “a great danger.”

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh said Twitter was “a great danger not suitable for Muslims… it is a platform for spreading lies and making accusations.”

Saudi faces death calls after prophet tweets

Tribe Suing Beer Companies For Alcohol Problems

An American Indian tribe is suing some of the world’s largest beer makers, claiming they knowingly contributed to alcohol-related problems on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota filed a federal lawsuit Thursday demanding $500 million from five international beer manufacturers for the cost of health care, social services and child rehabilitation caused by chronic alcoholism on the reservation.

The lawsuit also targets four off-site beer stores in Whiteclay, a Nebraska town with a population of about a dozen people on the South Dakota border that sells nearly 5 million cans of beer annually.

The Connecticut-sized reservation has struggled with alcoholism and poverty for generations, despite an alcohol ban since 1832. Pine Ridge legalized alcohol in 1970, but restored the ban two months later.

Tribe Suing Beer Companies For Alcohol Problems – K2 Radio

Simpsons dolls banned in Iran as ‘promoters of Western culture’


Sorry kids, the Simpsons are now forbidden in Tehran. An agency tied to the Iranian government has banned the sale of dolls of the American cartoon characters, an Iranian newspaper reported Monday.

According to Shargh, an independent newspaper, the Simpsons were banned to avoid the promotion of Western culture, putting Bart and Homer alongside Barbie on an Iranian toy blacklist. Superman and Spider-Man were allowed because they helped the “oppressed,” the Associated Press reported.

Mohammad Hossein Farjoo, secretary of policymaking at the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, didn’t say what was wrong with the Simpsons in particular, but said any doll that had distinguishable adult genitals, or any dolls of adults at all, were banned “because these dolls are promoters of Western culture,” the AP reported.

Simpsons dolls banned in Iran as ‘promoters of Western culture’ –

Scores killed in Egypt football violence

At least 73 people have been killed in clashes after a football game in the northern Egyptian city of Port Said, medics say. About 1,000 others were injured in Wednesday’s violence, including police. At least two players suffered light injuries.

Fans of the winning al-Masry team flooded the field seconds after the match with al-Ahly, Egypt’s top team, was over. A security official said the fans chased the players and cornered their supporters on the field and around the stadium, throwing stones and bottles at them.

Thousands of supporters covered the field, as seen in a video posted online.

“This is unfortunate and deeply saddening. It is the biggest disaster in Egypt’s soccer history,” Hesham Sheiha, deputy health minister, said.

He said most of the injuries were caused by concussion and deep cuts.

Al-Ahly football players were trapped in the changing room along with supporters. Riot police were sent in to drive the rival crowds of fans back.

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt’s ruling military council, sent army helicopters to transfer al-Ahly football players and injured fans from Port Said.

Private cars helped to shuttle the injured across the city to hospitals.

“This is not football. This is a war and people are dying in front of us. There is no movement and no security and no ambulances,” al-Ahly player Abo Treika told the team’s television channel.

Scores killed in Egypt football violence – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Mexican youths forced to work for drug gangs

Mexican youths forced to work for drug gangs

Young Mexicans are being abducted from poor towns and villages and forced to work for drug gangs, rights groups say, alleging the authorities are failing to do anything to stem the problem.

Stories of young people disappearing, as if swallowed up by the earth, are spreading in parts of Mexico gripped by drug violence which has left some 50,000 dead, according to media counts, in the past five years.

Non-governmental groups in the northern states of Nuevo Leon, where Monterrey lies, as well as Coahuila and Michoacan, to the west, have documented more than 1,000 disappearances from 2007 to 2011.

But they say they cannot prove that the youths were forced into working for organized crime groups which have rained terror on parts of Mexico as they battle for control of the lucrative multi-billion dollar drug business.

“They tried to take me away around seven months ago,” said one 17-year-old in a recorded testimony obtained by AFP from a non-governmental organization.

The youth, who declined to be named, lives in a poor suburb of Monterrey, a flashpoint in Mexico’s drug wars where the Zetas gang are fighting a vicious turf war with their former employers, the Gulf cartel.

Armed men forced him into a car one night as he talked to a friend on the street.

“I was frightened, shaking and shaking,” the youth said, explaining how he tried to persuade the men to release him by appealing to their religious side, and telling them he had a Bible with him.

He said he was lucky because they finally let him go.

“If you walk the streets after 11:00 pm they abduct you,” warned another youth in the same recording, also requesting anonymity.

Requests by AFP to the Mexican attorney general’s office for information and a comment on the official numbers of people who have disappeared were not answered.

But a year ago the National Human Rights Commission, a state body, said there had been around 5,000 disappearances since President Felipe Calderon started a military crackdown on drug gangs in December 2006.

Mexican youths forced to work for drug gangs

Censorship in India: Rushdie appearance blocked at Jaipur literary festival, plus plans for online restrictions on political criticism

Even a magical realist would struggle with the unlikely tale that unfolded this week at the Jaipur literary festival. Salman Rushdie, an author whom Islamists revile, stayed away, warned by police that two assassins had been dispatched by a Mumbai mafioso to prowl among the literati and murder him.

When it turned out that the police story was more inventive than most novels, Mr Rushdie offered to speak by video link. Yet the plug was pulled on that, amid talk of baying mobs of Muslims. The festival organisers, prodded by the authorities, also sent other writers packing from Jaipur for daring to read out extracts from his book “The Satanic Verses”, banned in India.

Groups that monitor censorship rank India as pretty free. Yet unedifying exceptions exist. In 2010 another writer, Arundhati Roy, was charged with sedition for criticising abuses by the Indian state in Kashmir, disputed with Pakistan. Last year Gujarat banned an unflattering biography of a native son, Mahatma Gandhi. Censors block publications with maps that show the actual line of control in Kashmir, not India’s territorial claim.

Now officials want to impose online restrictions. In October the communication minister, Kapil Sibal, tried ordering Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others to remove web pages critical of political leaders, such as Sonia Gandhi, adding that he worried too about religiously provocative material. He also reportedly told firms to pre-screen all content before it was posted, which he denies.

Censorship in India: Unfunny gags | The Economist