US Republican makes abortion gaff

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The Republican candidate for the US senate in Indiana caused outrage by saying that if a woman is raped it is part of God’s will.

Richard Mourdock, who is a favourite of the conservative Tea Party movement, made the comments during a debate on abortion.

He had been locked in a close battle with Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly but these remarks could amount to political suicide:

“I believe that life begins at conception,” Mourdock said. “The only exception I have, to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it, myself, for a long time, but I came to realise life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who on Monday launched state-wide ads endorsing Mourdock, immediately distanced himself from the comments.

The Republicans need a net gain of four seats in the elections on November 6 to take control of the US senate.

Philippines: Peace deal between government and Muslim rebels

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The Philippine government has agreed a peace deal with Muslim rebels ending more than four decades of violent conflict.

The agreement represents a major breakthrough in trust between the authorities and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) separatists and sets in motion the creation of a new autonomous Bangsmoro region in the Muslim dominated south of the mostly Catholic country.

Bangsmoro refers to both the Muslim and non-Islamic people of the Southern Philippines.

The transition which should be completed by the end of President Benigno Aquino’s term in 2016 will give the Muslim area more political and economic powers, including a larger share in revenues from natural resources.

The conflict has stunted the Philippine economy and killed more than 120,000 people although recently the country has seen a recent growth spurt and a resurgence in investor interest.

It is hoped the long awaited new deal will now bring peace and free up untapped deposits of oil, gas and mineral resources in rebel areas.

Radical preacher Hamza lands in US

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Radical Islamist cleric, Abu Hamza, arrived in New York on Saturday where he is expected to appear in a US court on terrorism charges within 24 hours.

Hamza was deported from the UK along with four other suspects following an eight year legal battle which strained the country’s relationship with the European court of human rights.

The hate preacher faces 11 charges in the US related to hostage taking, conspiracy to establish a militant training camp and calling for a holy war in Afghanistan.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner welcomed the move: “This ends a period of lengthy litigation through UK courts as well as the European court of human rights and also speaks of the strength of the law enforcement relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.”

The five suspects left a military airbase in Suffolk in two planes just hours after their final appeals were turned down. Adel Abdul Bary and Khaled al-Fawwaz joined Hamza in New York.

While Babar Ahmad and Tahla Ahsan, were flown to Connecticut where they face charges of running a pro-Jihad website.

Muhammad cartoon sparks anti-French protests

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French embassies around the world have been hit by protests following the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a satirical magazine.

Weekly paper, Charlie Hebdo, had its Paris offices burned down by a petrol bomb attack in November, after printing an edition which named the Prophet as “guest editor” and has now printed obscene cartoons of Muhammad in the nude.

The publication of the caricatures has divided opinion in France. It highlights the tension between the western principle of freedom of speech and Islamic beliefs that find insults to the Prophet intolerable.

In Iran, dozens of students and clerics gathered outside the French embassy in Tehran chanting “death to France”, and “Down with the US” as an American made film they find blasphemous continues to also cause controversy.

In Tunisia the French embassy has announced the closure of all French schools until Monday as violence is feared and protests have already taken place in Pakistan where hundreds of people clashed with police. Officers used tear gas and batons to prevent them from reaching French government buildings.

French embassies, consulates, cultural centres and schools in some 20 muslim countries are temporarily closing as much larger demonstrations are expected after Friday prayers.

 

Pope calls for peace on last day in Lebanon

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On the last day of the Pope Benedict’s visit to Lebanon, he celebrated an open-air mass in front of around 350,000 pilgrims, as well as politicians from all sectors of the multi-faith country.

 

The pilgrims had come to Beirut from across the Middle East, where the service was held at an altar built on land reclaimed with debris from Lebanon’s 1975-1990 sectarian civil war.

 

The crowd cheered and waved Vatican as well as Lebanese flags as the Pope gave a speech in which he appealed for tolerance and religious freedom and for reconciliation between Christians and Muslims.

 

These have been the central themes of the visit which comes amid soaring sectarian tensions in the region, exacerbated by the conflict in Syria.

 

The pope also called on Christians not to leave the region despite war and growing pressure from radical Islamists.

 

 

Anti-US clashes continue in Cairo

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Anti-US protests sparked by an American made film which mocks the Prophet Muhammad continued in Cairo on Friday.

After clashes at the US embassy in Cairo earlier in the week, President Barrack Obama described the US-Egyptian relationship as a work in progress, and said he sees Egypt neither as an ally nor an enemy.

Under ousted autocratic President, Hosni Mubarak, the United States was a close ally of the country and gives assistance including over a billion dollars of military aid each year.

Violent Anti-American protests started across the Middle-East and North Africa following the release of the anti-Islamic film.

On Tuesday the storming of the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, resulted in the death of the US ambassador.

Myanmar: Government worsens sectarian violence

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Myanmar security forces committed rape, and mass arrests against Rohingya Muslims in June according to a new Human Rights Watch report.

It said the attacks happened after forces had already stood by during an outbreak of sectarian violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Arkan State, which resulted in dozens of deaths and many villages destroyed.

Phil Robertson, the Deputy Director of Watch’s Asia Division, said that many lives would have been saved if government forces intervened from the outset:

“What was consistent in this narrative was that there was a government failure to intervene, and that meant that the people from the both sides began to arm to defend themselves. And ultimately, a lack of government protection meant that emboldened partisans on both sides more thoroughly planned and executed coordinated attacks on the other side. So in rather short order, the situation descended to chaos.”

The report entitled: ‘The Government could have stopped this,’ also says that over 100,000 Rohingya Muslims have been displaced and are in need of food, shelter and medical care after the government restricted humanitarian aid.