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Southern Philippines Could Be ‘New Somalia’

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A member of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency rescues an Indonesian sailor who was shot during a kidnapping on the east coast of Malaysia’s Sabah state. This handout picture was released April 16, 2016.

Indonesia and Malaysia are bolstering security along their borders with the southern Philippines, and an Indonesian official has warned that the area could become “the new Somalia” after a recent surge in maritime kidnappings.

Companies that ship coal from Kalimantan to the Philippines have been forced to suspend shipments or change routes after 14 Indonesian sailors were abducted at sea by Abu Sayyaf militants. Based in the southern Philippines, the group has declared allegiance to the Islamic State extremist group and is demanding a million-dollar ransom for 10 of the men.

Malaysia, which has seen four of its nationals kidnapped, has allocated 50 million ringgit (U.S. $12.8 million) to beef up security in its easternmost state of Sabah to contain trans-border crime in the area, the nation’s police chief told BenarNews.

The Royal Malaysia Police is establishing forward operating bases on islands in a special security zone off the state’s coast “to anticipate any future threats in the waters of Sabah,” said Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar.

Malaysia had earlier designated the area as the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM), and bolstered security there following a daring 2013 incursion by a band of fighters loyal to a Sulu Archipelago sultan claiming the territory.

Indonesia, meanwhile, has invited foreign ministers and top defense officials from the Philippines and Malaysia to Jakarta on May 3 to discuss safeguarding maritime trade routes among the three countries.

“The agenda will be the possibility of joint patrols in the area,” Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan told reporters in Jakarta on Thursday, in announcing the meeting.

“We don’t want this area to become the new Somalia,” Luhut said, referring to the Horn of Africa country whose pirates raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom payments between 2005 and 2011. Somalia also is home to al-Shabaab, a militant group linked with al-Qaeda.

Beheading threats

On Tuesday, Luhut said the shipping company that employs the 10 crew members kidnapped on March 29 had agreed to pay a ransom, but negotiations were still under way.

Abu Sayyaf has demanded a ransom of 50 million pesos (U.S. $1.07 million) for the 10 sailors.

The group for years has run a kidnapping racket from Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines. Last week, it issued a video in which it threatened to behead one of four hostages on April 28, if a ransom demand for two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina were not paid by then.

In November, Abu Sayyaf beheaded a Malaysian citizen, Bernard Then, who had been snatched from a seaside restaurant in Sabah in May and taken to the southern Philippines.

Authorities are not yet sure who abducted four more Indonesian sailors on April 15, although Malaysian officials originally pinned the blame on Abu Sayyaf, based on accounts from six crew members who escaped and made it to shore in Sabah.

Shipping stopped

A spokeswoman for PT Patria Maritim Lines, whose crew was kidnapped March 29, declined to comment on ransom negotiations with Abu Sayyaf.

She said the company had suspended all shipments after the incident, pending improved security conditions in waters near the Tawi-Tawi islands, where the kidnapping occurred.

“Even if another company requests a coal delivery to the Philippines, we will turn them down for now,” Sara Lubis told BenarNews.

PT Kideco Jaya Agung, a company based in Paser, East Kalimantan, said it was still shipping coal to the Philippines but had been forced to change routes to avoid the threat of piracy in waters near Tawi-Tawi.

“We’ve changed the distribution route of ships carrying coal exports to the Philippines. We use the Java Sea and Makassar Strait to reach the Philippines,” company official Siswoko told BenarNews.

New bases in Sabah

In Manila, Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs Jose Rene Almendras assured Malaysian counterpart Anifah Aman that his government was “taking all the necessary measures” to ensure the safe release of four Malaysian sailors kidnapped April 1, a Malaysian Foreign Ministry statement said Friday.

The new security outposts being set up in ESSCOM zone off Sabah’s east coast will be manned by Marine Police, Special Forces and Air Operations Force members, among other units, Police Inspector-General Khalid told Benar.

A new forward base has been operational since April 11 at Mabul Island, while another on Bangi Island would be activated soon, he said. Mabul lies off the southern coast of the eastern tip of Sabah, and Banggi lies off its northern coast.

On Monday, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein announced that the ministry would station six MD-530 G light helicopters in the area by the end of 2016.

Sabah Police Commissioner Abd. Harun Rashid told BenarNews that the choppers would strengthen security in the zone.

Malaysia police were ready to assist Indonesian security forces in combatting piracy in the area, he added.

“Malaysian police and the Indonesian security forces must work together to find ways of a more coordinated action. We are ready for any further action by parties involved, including assisting on the kidnapping,” he said. (BenarNews)

Gunawan in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia contributed to this report.

1 COMMENT

  1. Indonesia and Malaysia should work together, we should just shot in sight any Filipino terrorists that tried to intrude our borders. Philippines has proved themselves that they cannot facing these bunch of terrorists. It is the time we use our new weapons to fight these terrorists who said they fight for Islam, but they kill our people who are Muslims too.

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3 Ahmadi Men Sentenced to Death in Pakistan on Charges of Blasphemy; Minority Communities are increasingly facing the Heat in the Country

“Blasphemy is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan. Rights groups say the controversial blasphemy law has often been abused to settle personal vendettas and disputes.

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Pakistan-protest
Pakistani students of Islamic seminaries take part in a rally in support of blasphemy laws in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Hundreds of students of Islamic seminaries rallied in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, urging government to remove blasphemous content from social media and take stern action against those who posted blasphemous content on social media to hurt sentiments of Muslims. The placards, in center, in Urdu language are reading as "Authorized Institutions immediately take action on the incidents of blasphemy and remove blasphemous content on social media". (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed) (VOA)

Washington, October 15, 2017: A court in Pakistan’s Punjab province has sentenced three men of a minority religious group to death on charges of violating the country’s controversial blasphemy law.

Mubasher Ahmad, Ghulam Ahmed and Ehsan Ahmed were found guilty and convicted by the trial court Wednesday for insulting the prophet of Islam.

The men were tried under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s penal code, commonly referred to as the blasphemy law, which recommends either life imprisonment or the death penalty for anyone found guilty of deliberately insulting Islam.

The men were arrested in May 2014 in a remote village in Punjab province after residents filed a complaint with the police and accused the defendants of tearing down a religious poster.

Four men were arrested at the time. The fourth man, Khalil Ahmad, was shot dead by an angry man while in police custody just a few days after the incident.

Saleemuddin, a spokesperson for the Ahmadi community, told VOA that the charges against the defendants and the court’s verdict were unfair.

“The convicted men were trying to take down a poster, which had anti-Ahmadi slogans and text that urged the community to socially boycott the already persecuted Ahmadi community,” Saleemuddin said.

“We will challenge the trial court’s decision in high court,” he added.

Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, but Pakistan’s state does not recognize them as such and labels them heretics. There are more than a half-million Ahmadis living in Pakistan under the constant threat of persecution.

The Ahmadi community “is one of the most mistreated communities in the country. They have had been a target of blasphemous charges, sectarian violence and target killings,” said Mehdi Hasan, a prominent human rights activist in Pakistan.

ALSO READ Military Dictatorship Always Halted Progress in Pakistan, says Pakistan Prime Minister

Ahmadis ‘a threat’

The death sentence for the three individuals came just a few days after Muhammad Safdar, a prominent member of the ruling party and son-in-law of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, publicly denounced Ahmadi community members as a threat to Pakistan and urged the country’s institutions not to hire them in the military or the civil service.

Safdar’s remarks stirred a debate in the country on the issue of minorities and their rights.

Pakistan Minister of the Interior Ahsan Iqbal, without mentioning Safdar by name, denounced the anti-minority rhetoric coming from politicians.

“It is tragic to see hate speech against minorities in National Assembly. We believe in inclusive Pakistan. Pakistan respects all minorities,” Iqbal said in a tweet.

Abuse of law

“Blasphemy is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan. We’ve seen several incidents where angry mobs killed those accused of committing blasphemy without giving them a right to face the trial,” human rights activist Hasan told VOA.

Rights groups say the controversial blasphemy law has often been abused to settle personal vendettas and disputes. Due process is often ceremonial, the rights activists add, and decisions are often informed by the growing religious intolerance in the country.

Even if courts do drop charges against defendants, mobs and local residents attack them, and law enforcement authorities look the other way in most cases, the activists charge.

blasphemy
Members of a Pakistani civil society demonstrate April 22, 2017, in Karachi, Pakistan, against the killing of Mashal Khan, a student at the Abdul Wali Khan University in the northwestern city of Mardan. Police say the lynching of Khan, falsely accused of blasphemy, was organized by other students who saw him as a political rival. (VOA)

Social media posts

Nadeem James, a Christian, was sentenced to death last month in Punjab after the court established that he sent a blasphemous poem to a friend via WhatsApp, an instant message application.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a recent report said 15 people were arrested on charges of blasphemy in 2016, including 10 Muslims and five members of religious minorities.

In April 2017, Mashaal Khan, a journalism student, was accused of posting blasphemous content online and was beaten to death by fellow students at Abdul Wali Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pakistan’s government is being criticized for strictly enforcing the blasphemy laws.

In April 2017, the government used newspapers and mobile phone services to warn its citizens not to post or upload any blasphemous materials on social media.

The government has also reportedly encouraged people to report those who violate the blasphemy law. (VOA)

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Ahmadiyya Sect of Pakistan is the Most Persecuted Minority in Line of Fire

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Pakistan Minority
Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community dig graves for victims in Chenab Nagar. voa

Islamabad, Pakistan October 11: The son-in-law of Pakistan’s recently ousted prime minister lambasted a minority that human rights groups consider one of the most persecuted in the country.

Mohammed Safdar said members of the Ahmadiyya sect are a “danger to this country, this nation, its constitution and its identity.”

Speaking in the national assembly, of which he is a member, Safdar demanded that Ahmadiyyas, along with the minority Bohra community, be barred from joining the armed forces of the country because their “false religions do not include the concept of jihad in the name of God.”

Safdar is the son-in-law of Nawaz Sharif, who was forced to resign from premiership in July after a court ruled against him in a corruption case. Sharif alleged that the ruling was a conspiracy to remove him from power by the establishment, a euphemism for the country’s powerful military.

A member of Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, Safdar is married to his daughter Maryam Nawaz, who has been widely reported in the news as his potential successor.

In his statement Tuesday, Safdar also demanded that the name of the physics department of the Quaid e Azam University in Islamabad be changed. The department is named after Dr. Abdul Salam, an Ahmadiyya who is also one of Pakistan’s two Nobel laureates. The other one is Malala Yousufzai, who became the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize for her activism in favor of girls’ education.

“If the name of the department is not changed, I would protest here every day,” Safdar said.

His outburst in the assembly followed days of uproar by the opposition parties over a minor amendment in the election law that was deemed to be pro-Ahmadiyya. The government declared it a clerical error and reinstated the original draft of the law.

Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan face a peculiar dilemma. They insist they are Muslims, but the country’s constitution declares them non-Muslims. Officials say Ahmadiyyas are welcome to all the rights afforded to other minorities in the country as long as they do not call themselves followers of the Islamic faith. Ahmadiyyas, on the other hand, insist that doing so would go against their religious beliefs.(voa)

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‘Religion’ in India- Types and its Connection to Country’s Civilization

The Ancient religions of India are Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.

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Religion
Ancient Religions of India.

India’s economic and political strata in today’s world have reached a great level, but that is still not what the country is known for. The country is known for its diversity and religions because the term ‘religion’ in India is not just a system of belief and worship, but a way of life too. Since ancient times, it has been an integral part of its culture. For the citizens of this country, religion pervades through all the activities of life- from cooking chores to working and politics. The religion we follow plays an important role in our upbringing as well. Our conditioning is done based on the principles of our religion. India is a home to many religions- Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and others.

How old is the Indian civilization?

The Indian civilization is around 4000 years old, with the existing Indian religions growing in that period. The antiquity of the religions in India begins from the Harappan culture. It’s a secular country which respects all kinds of religion and culture, but during the ancient times, when the Human civilization was developing, there were three main religions native to India- Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The predominant religion during this period was Hinduism, which is said have originated in the Northern India.

Religion wise Indian Population:

  • HINDUISM – about 82%
  • ISLAM – about 12%
  • CHRISTIANITY – about 2.5%
  • SIKHISM – about 2%
  • BUDDHISM – about 0.7%
  • JAINISM – about 0.5%
  • ZOROASTRIANISM – about 0.01%
  • JUDAISM – about 0.0005%   (stated by adaniel.tripod)

Hinduism

Religion
Brahma                                                                                                                                                          Pixabay

Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. Its followers worship several deities. Unlike the other religions, this religion does not have one teacher. Its followers, the ‘Hindus’ believe in a supreme divine spirit called ‘Parama Brahma’. The concept of Parama Brahma states that Brahma is omnipresent.

Hindus believe in vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means the whole world is a single family. They also believe in Sarva dharma Sama Bhava, which means all religions are equal. The practice follows the ideas of mercy, charity, compassion, benevolence, non-violence and mercy. It believes the concept of ‘Bhakti’ or devotion.

The sacred writings of Hinduism include the Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Upanishads.

Also Read: The history and development of Indian Handicrafts

Jainism

Religion
Lord Mahavira                                                                                                                                                   Pixabay

According to tradition, the founder of Jainism was first Tirthankara Adinatha. However, the religion was widely propagated by the 24th Tirthankara, Mahavira. He was born in Vaishali, Bihar, who belonged to the clan ‘Licchavi’. Mahavira was moved by the sufferings of people, and therefore, left his home at the age of 30 to seek the truth. He supported the teachings of the previous Tirthankaras, and added his own beliefs to the teachings.
He believed in the ideology of leading a good life and not doing any wrong. He did not encourage the practice of needing the help of God for everything.
Doctrines of Jainism:
  1. Ahimsa (Non-violence)
  2. Satya (Truth)
  3. Asteya (Non-stealing)
  4. Brahmacharya (Chastity)
  5. Aparigraha (Non-possession)

Buddhism

Religion
Lord Buddha                                                                                                                                                    Pixabay

Buddhism is a religion which consists of different kinds of beliefs and practices based on the teachings of Lord Buddha. Buddha’s name was Siddhartha. He was the son of the Shakya clan’s leader. It is believed that Siddhartha made three observations, which changed his life:  a feeble old man; a person suffering from disease; and a dead body being taken for cremation. This propelled him in finding the true meaning of life. He left his home at an early age and attained ‘enlightenment’ in Bodhgaya.
He also prescribed the four noble truths and eight fold path.
Four noble truths are:
  • Dukkha (truth of suffering)
  • Samudāya (truth of the suffering’s origin)
  • Nirodha (the truth of suffering’s cessation.)
  • Magga (Direction to eight-fold path)

The eight fold path are- Right aims, Right beliefs, Right conduct, Right speech, Right effort, Right occupation, Right meditation and Right thinking.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at twitter @ImMeghaacharya.