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Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Muslim Chaplain caught in the middle

Source: The New York Times

Filed under: Featured,Lifestyle,People |
A Muslim Chaplain Caught in the Middle
Source: The New York Times
Salah Hamidi describes himself as a piece of meat on a cutting block, being whacked by a butcher.
As a Muslim chaplain in a nearby French prison, Mr. Hamidi, 50, said he felt caught between dueling responsibilities: offering spiritual guidance to the 600 or so Muslim inmates, while also helping the prison administration detect and deal with any signs of fomenting radicalization.
Muslim prison chaplains “are caught in the middle, between the cutting board and the cleaver,” he said, pointing to a slab of meat hanging at a local butcher here. Viewed with suspicion both by inmates and by the prison administration in nearby Villepinte, “I need to manage the two at the same time, and it’s not easy,” he said, frowning and rubbing his forehead.
In the aftermath of the January killings at the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and an attack on a Jewish supermarket by Islamist extremist gunmen, the government is turning to Muslim chaplains to help prevent the spread of radicalization in prisons. Two of the killers met in prison a decade before the attacks and are believed to have turned to terrorism during their detention.
In January, Prime Minister Manuel Valls pledged to educate 60 Muslim prison chaplains to help combat radicalization in the prisons — part of a wider government plan that includes creating about 2,700 jobs to combat terrorism, recruiting intelligence analysts, increasing the number of judges dealing with terrorist offenses and adding prison personnel.
But there are too few Muslim chaplains, and despite efforts to hire more, it takes time, and the vetting process is laborious.
It was only last year that the prison in the Paris suburb of Villepinte, one of the most overpopulated in France, appointed two Muslim chaplains to help Mr. Hamidi.
For the 40,000 or so Muslim inmates in France — laws on secularism mean there are no official figures by religion, but they are estimated to be 60 percent of the 67,000 inmates in French prisons — there are about 182 Muslim prison chaplains, according to Moulay El Hassan El Alaoui Talibi, the national Muslim chaplain for prisons. There are about 562 Christian chaplains, a disparity largely attributed to the country’s Roman Catholic history and traditions.
The strict laws on secularism also mean that prison chaplains of any faith do not have professional status, and so cannot legally discuss social and political issues, such as jihad or foreign intervention in the Middle East, freely with younger inmates.
Mr. Hamidi said he was aware that there were inmates at his prison in Villepinte who were attracted to the Islamic State. “But they keep it well hidden,” he said. “It’s true, sometimes they will start talking about how we are in a society based on differences, racism, etc., but they’re not going to openly say they’re going to Syria or do jihad.”
His aim, he said, “is to make these people understand that they took religion blindly or that they took instructions from somewhere blindly, and that maybe they need to re-examine what exactly is religion.”
Still, he said that he empathized with the inmates, most of whom are young and jailed for minor offenses like selling drugs and petty theft. Two-thirds of the prison’s 953 inmates are Muslim. “Of course, it’s true, they’ve committed crimes,” Mr. Hamidi said. “But consider a youth who has reached the age of 20, 22, 25, 30, and that he’s been looking for jobs everywhere. He doesn’t find any. Poverty pushes him to derail in his life.”
“Have you seen a doctor, a lawyer, someone in a good situation give it all up to do jihad in Syria?” he asked. “I don’t think so.”
Sometimes the need for cash that led to prison also makes them vulnerable to becoming radicalized in prison, Mr. Hamidi said, adding, “They get some sort of financing from outside.”
Muslim chaplains have a delicate, difficult task, said Farhad Khosrokhavar, a sociologist at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales who studies radicalization in French prisons. “There is a type of self-censorship that is going on,” he said. Inmates, in turn, are frustrated because they feel they are not understood. The chaplains “are caught between a rock and a hard place,” he said, and they and inmates “don’t understand each other.”
Mr. Hamidi, who was born in Gabès, Tunisia, but has lived in France for 30 years, works several days a week at the prison, when he is not working full-time as a nurse’s aide at a retirement home. He deals with at least 90 inmates a month individually and sometimes leads Friday Prayer in the prison’s multipurpose room, donning different-colored djellabas for the occasion and using a mix of Arabic and French. “Sometimes I need to shout to wake them up and get the message through,” he said.
A well-known figure among the people in this small city, where he is stopped on the street with greetings and handshakes, he began serving as a chaplain at the prison in 2003 as a volunteer, at the request of Mr. El Alaoui Talibi, because the lack of Muslim chaplains was acute and urgent. Trained as a mechanic in Tunisia, Mr. Hamidi studied to become a paramedic in Paris but dropped out because he could no longer afford to pay for his studies.
“Life is difficult in France,” he said. “I fought, fought, fought, but in the end I really found myself in need of a job.” Mr. Hamidi later worked as a computer programmer and in the export business. Married with no children, he took up nursing again.
He received formal training from the Grand Mosque of Paris in 2010, the year it began offering two-year programs for prison chaplains. But for the first five years he was unpaid, he said, and occasionally used his own money to buy Qurans and prayer mats, which some inmates requested. Now, he said, he earns 247 euros ($281) a month.
“When I started, the Muslim chaplaincy was completely ignored,” he said, rubbing his zebibah, Arabic for raisin, a callus formed as worshipers press their foreheads into the ground during prayer. “When I told the prison authorities about my being a Muslim chaplain, they replied, ‘Since when does that exist?’ ”
He faced other hurdles. “I was badly received by the prison administration,” he said.
At times, when he went to work, for example, he said he was made to wait at the gates for a long time before being allowed inside. He also said he fought to have halal food brought to the prison canteens, which started serving it only a year and a half ago. He also pushed to have packages sent to inmates during Eid festivities, and made sure inmates of other faiths received them as well.
With the addition of the two new Muslim chaplains last year, his workload has become a little easier, he said. Still, “it is mentally tiring to act as a spiritual guide and religious scholar, but also to shout at inmates like a father does to a son,” he said.
“It’s true the majority of the youth talk about the same thing — if you’re Arab or black, you’re excluded from society,” Mr. Hamidi said. “So I tell them, ‘Well, I’m Arab, I’m Muslim, I’m proud of it, and I try to be like everyone else, not to disturb or assault anyone.’ And I tell them that with time, everything comes naturally.”

Elderly nun gang-raped at Christian missionary school in India

RT logo

Published time: March 14, 2015 19:42
Reuters / Rupak De Chowdhuri
Reuters / Rupak De Chowdhuri
An elderly nun at a Christian missionary school in India was gang-raped by up to eight male attackers as she tried to prevent them from robbing the building at night.
The woman, who is reportedly 71 or 72 years old, was attacked by a group of raiders who broke into the Convent of Jesus and Mary School in Nadia district, located 80 kilometers northeast of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal state. According to differing reports, seven or eight men tied up the school's security guards and broke into the building. They entered the nun's room at around 01:00 on Saturday.
When the senior sister tried to stop them, the men took her into one of the rooms. They raped the woman, causing severe injuries.
The nun was taken to hospital in serious condition in the morning.
"A preliminary investigation has revealed that a nun at the school was gagged and gang-raped," Police Inspector General Anuj Sharma told AFP.
The raiders destroyed the property and took some cash, a mobile phone, a laptop, and a camera belonging to the school, before running away.

Police have launched a search operation to find the attackers. Sharma said on Saturday that "two people have so far been arrested."
According to the Times of India, the country’s state minister for urban affairs, Firhad Hakim, called the attack “heinous". He also called for the death penalty for anyone found guilty in the case.
Angry students, parents and teachers barricaded railroad tracks and a nearby highway for hours, demanding police take the case seriously and arrest those responsible.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee strongly condemned the attack, calling it "horrific.”


The shocking incident is the latest crime to draw attention to the rise of sexual violence in India. The country has seen a growing number of rapes over the past several years.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, rape figures increased by more than a quarter in just one year, to more than 33,700 sex crimes between 2012 and 2013. In Delhi alone, the number of rapes almost doubled, to more than 1,440 incidents in the same period. In 2014, the number of reported rapes in the city exceeded 2,060.
In December 2012, the nation was shocked by the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman aboard a moving bus in New Delhi, which led to her death.
Public outcry forced the country’s government to pass a law doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years. The legislation also classifies voyeurism, stalking, and the trafficking of women as crimes. It also stipulates that officers who refuse to open cases when they receive complaints are committing crimes.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Soomaali Khaniis Ah Oo Canada Lagu Dilay iyo Masaajid Lagu Tukaday

Albino killers sentenced to death in Tanzania


Women carrying their albino children on May 5, 2014, in Dar es Salaam
View photo
Women carrying their albino children on May 5, 2014, in Dar es Salaam (AFP Photo/Bunyamin Aygun)
Arusha (Tanzania) (AFP) - A court in Tanzania has sentenced four people to death for the murder of an albino woman who was killed so her hacked-off limbs could be used in magic, officials said Friday.

The sentencing comes after Tanzania' President Jakaya Kikwete blasted the wave of killings of albinos, whose body parts are used for witchcraft, as a "disgusting and big embarrassment for the nation".
The killers who were convicted include Charles Nassoro, the husband of the murdered woman. Court officials in Mwanza, northwest Tanzania, said the victim had her legs and right hand hacked off with an axe and machete after being attacked while eating dinner in her village.
"The prosecution has proved the case beyond reasonable doubt," High Court judge Joaquine Demello told state radio after Thursday's verdict.
She also told the Citizen newspaper the sentence had also taken into account "the escalating killing of people with albinism in the country".
According to a UN expert, attacks on people with albinism have claimed the lives of at least 75 people since 2000, and that albino body parts sell for around $600, with an entire corpse fetching $75,000.
Despite the handing down of the death penalty, Tanzania has had a de facto moratorium on capital punishment and carried out its last execution, by hanging, in 1994. There are currently 17 people on death row in the country for killing albinos.
Earlier this week Tanzania's president met with albino rights activists, promising firm action to stop the murders.
"The government has long tried to do everything possible to stop the killings, we are very serious with this. But we still need to enhance our efforts to bring to an end these killings, which are disgusting and a big embarrassment to the nation," Kikwete said in a statement.
Albinism is a hereditary genetic condition which causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes. It affects one Tanzanian in 1,400, often as a result of inbreeding, experts say. In the West, it affects just one person in 20,000.

Copwatch June 8th 2014

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Albinos 'hunted like animals' for body parts in Malawi


Sapa-dpa | 03 March, 2015 07:32
An albino child attends school in Tanzania. File photo.
Image by: © Alida Vanni

A lucrative black market exists for the body parts of albinos, who are believed by some to possess magical powers that can bring good luck. But as police in Tanzania crack down on the grisly trade, activists in neighbouring Malawi say attacks have spiked.

Albinos are living in fear of being killed in Malawi, where their body parts are increasingly being sold for use in traditional rituals that promise to deliver wealth and power.
Three albinos - people born without pigmentation - have been killed and mutilated in the southern African country in the first two months of the year, the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM) reported.
There were two albino killings in all of 2014 and one in 2013.
One woman was found in January with her head, arms and legs cut off, the government said. Police are also searching for several individuals reported missing.
"We are hunted like animals," said APAM president Boniface Massah, who campaigns for the rights of Malawi's 10,000 albinos.
The body parts are often believed to be sold in neighbouring Tanzania, where more than 70 albinos have been killed since 2000.
Tanzanian authorities announced in January that they would crack down on the gruesome trade. They banned the activities of witch doctors who promise to bring clients good luck and fortune to prevent them from making ritual use of albino body parts.
While the practice is condemned by the overwhelming majority of traditional healers, a lucrative black market exists for the body parts said to possess magical powers.
A set of albino body parts - including hands and feet, genitals, ears, tongue and nose - sold for $75,000 in Dar es Salaam recently, according to Tanzanian police.
But after Tanzania began its efforts to curb the practice, activists say the criminals moved to Malawi.
"Those who are in the business of selling body parts of albinos ... have established a market in Malawi, because it has become tougher to do business in Tanzania," Massah said.
Police have not commented on the matter. Several people have been arrested in connection with the recent killings of albinos but they do not include any foreigners.
The spike in the number of slayings has scared many parents of albino children to such an extent that they have taken them out of school, the activist said.
"You are no longer sure you can trust even friends or relatives," Massah added.
Albinos face threat in many African countries, ranging from Kenya and Burundi to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal.
The rights group Under The Same Sun (UTSS) lists 140 killings, as well as 219 mutilations and other attacks, against albinos in 25 African countries between 1998 and 2015.
The belief in the magical powers of albinos is based on the idea that the birth of a white child to black parents is a supernatural event.
Such a birth can be seen as a curse from the ancestors, and some east African ethnic groups - such as the Sukuma or the Maasai - traditionally killed albino children at birth, according to UTSS.
Among other African ethnic groups, however, albinos enjoy respect.
The Yoruba of Nigeria and Benin believe albinos are under the protection of the god Obatala, who is believed to have created them and to like the colour white.
Belief in magic is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. Malawian newspapers, for instance, frequently run articles on villagers being accused of witchcraft. It is not uncommon to hear stories of politicians or businessmen having accumulated wealth and power through magical means.
Being an albino was difficult in Malawi even before the killings increased. "Being white in a society where the majority is black is not easy," said Massah, 32, who recalls being called names at school.
Many children have worse experiences, with their fathers abandoning the family because they suspect their wives of cheating on them with a white man, he said.
There have been no known convictions in Malawi for murders or other attacks against albinos in the past four years, according to Massah. In Tanzania, only about 10 people were convicted since 2000, local media reported.
"I am a teacher. I am contributing to the development of Malawi like any other person," said Emmanuel Mkwapatira, a 43-year-old albino who lives in the southern town of Balaka.
"Is this not enough evidence that people with albinism are also human?"

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